MS Society of Canada Grants Will Support 66 Research Projects

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by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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The MS Society of Canada is providing thousands in funding to 66 research projects that aim to accelerate scientific understand of multiple sclerosis (MS) and to improve care for people with the disease.

The society announced the winners of its 2022–23 Annual Research Competition in four categories of awards.

One category, the Discovery Research Grant Program, supports projects into improving MS treatment and patient well-being, and in preventing the disease from progressing or developing in the first place. A dozen projects this year have received awards of up to CA$300,000 (about $240,000).

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Among the recipients are Jennifer Gommerman, PhD, with the University of Toronto, whose project aims to understand how age-related changes in the microbiome — the host of bacteria and other microscopic organisms that make their home in and on the human body — affects progressive MS. Another project, led by Ruth Anne Marrie, MD, PhD, at the University of Manitoba, is examining the incidence and prevalence of mental illness during pregnancy or after childbirth (peripartum period) in people with MS.

Other projects funded by the Discovery Research Grant Program include efforts to untangle the roles of specific cells or proteins in the development of MS and to more clearly define how MS-like disease tends to progress.

Six projects received up to CA$50,000 through the society’s Catalyst Research Grant Program, which facilitates projects to develop and test new and innovative hypotheses with the potential to expand and advance the field of MS research.

Winners this year include Shannon Kolind, PhD, with the University of British Columbia, who is leading a project to assess damage to myelin (the fatty wrapping around nerve fibers that is damaged in MS) using MRI data. Another project, led by George Robertson, PhD, at Dalhousie University, is investigating the potential of a nanoparticle drug formulation, delivered via the nose, to help repair damage to the spinal cord.

The society also is providing funding to 30 doctoral students, four master’s students, and 14 postdoctoral researchers who are working on projects related to MS. The value of these awards range from CA$20,000 to CA$50,050, depending on the specific degrees held by each recipient.

Many of these projects are undertaking basic research that aims to better characterize the specific changes in immune activity that drive autoimmunity in MS, investigate the roles of different immune cell populations, important signaling molecules, as well as differences in biological sex (e.g., hormones).

Other projects are exploring how COVID-19 may impact MS-like disease, potential avenues to repair damaged myelin, and lifestyle interventions like diet and exercise.

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