€12.6 Million Awarded to 3 Projects in Global Effort to End Progressive Multiple Sclerosis

LONDON, Sept. 15, 2016 /CNW/ -- In an unprecedented global effort to end progressive MS, the International Progressive MS Alliance has awarded three €4.2 million Collaborative Network Award grants for a total investment of €12.6 million* toward accelerating the pace of progressive MS research. More than 2.3 million people worldwide live with MS and more than one million of those living with the disease have progressive MS.

The Alliance is a worldwide collaborative of MS organisations that funds developments in progressive MS research. The awards are multi-year grants that invest significant funding to fuel international networks of researchers that have worked together and demonstrated the potential to make crucial breakthroughs in understanding and treating progressive MS.

"Finding answers for people with progressive MS is the top Alliance priority," said Cyndi Zagieboylo, Chair of the Alliance Executive Committee and President and CEO of the National MS Society (U.S.), "answers will be found when we ensure that the best and brightest minds in the scientific community work together."

Global Collaboration to Tackle a Major MS Question   
Up to 65% of those living with relapsing-remitting MS are at risk of developing secondary progressive MS, and 15% are diagnosed with primary progressive MS from the outset - prioritizing the need for both collaboration and accelerated research to end MS. The 3 funded projects will focus on key priorities in quickly finding answers in relation to treating progressive MS:

Awardee/Project 1: 

Principal Investigator: Douglas Arnold, M.D., McGill University (Canada) in collaboration with 16 investigators from The Netherlands, Switzerland, U.K., and U.S. 

Project Title: Identifying a biomarker of disability progression for use in clinical trials 
Dr. Arnold and his team are pioneering development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) markers that signal disease progression; crucial to the development of next generation disease measurement tools. The research team is adapting these markers for use in early clinical trials of progressive MS treatments, examining the underlying idea that brain injury-associated disease progression in MS is detectable by MRI prior to its identification by physicians in a clinic visit. The study may also inform proactive treatment for people with not-yet-evident progressive MS.

Awardee/Project 2:

Principal Investigator: Gianvito Martino, M.D., Division of Neuroscience, San Raffaele Hospital Milan (Italy) in collaboration with 13 Investigators from Canada, Europe, France, Germany, Italy, and the U.S.

Project Title: Bioinformatics and cell reprogramming to develop an in vitro platform to discover new drugs for progressive multiple sclerosis (BRAVEinMS) 
The BRAVEinMS team is working to identify molecules that may have a protective role in nerve cells or neurons and/or the capacity to promote myelin repair. Three phases are focused on: i) identifying potential drugs or compounds using sophisticated bioinformatics tools specifically developed to virtually reproduce pathogenic mechanisms of MS; ii) screening these compounds for their ability to protect nerve cells or promote myelin repair in laboratory tests and, iii) evaluating the therapeutic potential of 'candidate' compounds identified through the screening.

The research could pinpoint a limited number of previously unidentified molecules with a high chance of therapeutic power in progressive MS patients, ultimately identifying human grade compounds for use in clinical trials in patients with progressive MS; with a potential clinical trial by the end of 2020.

Awardee/Project 3:

Principal Investigator: Francisco Quintana, Ph.D., Brigham and Women's Hospital (U.S.) in collaboration with 8 Investigators from Canada, Israel, Sanofi Genzyme, and the U.S.

Project Title: Development of a drug discovery pipeline for progressive MS 
This project aims to identify drug candidates that may be effective therapies for progressive MS, and that will be ready for evaluation in patients within four years of the research initiation. By targeting the innate immune system in the central nervous system, the team will uncover effective therapeutic approaches for progressive MS. Dr. Quintana's team recently identified the biological pathways that control the innate immune response and genetic manipulation of the pathways can arrest nerve damage and alter disease progression; however no candidate drugs are available to modulate the activity of innate immune cells.

This study will: i) Identify the biological processes that control the innate immune response in the central nervous system; ii) Evaluate the activity of candidate drugs on the innate immune system in experimental models of progressive MS; iii) Analyze how the candidate drugs exert their beneficial effect; and, iv) Identify additional candidate targets and therapeutic drugs that impact the innate immune system in progressive MS.

Despite advances in treatments for other forms of MS, there have been significant barriers to understanding progressive MS given the lack of an identifiable disease pattern. "The quality, breadth, innovation, and focus of these awards has the potential to bring forth some of the most important and potentially transformative work in the area of progressive MS", says Prof. Alan Thompson, Chair of the Alliance's Scientific Steering Committee and Dean of University College London Faculty of Brain Sciences.

"As someone who lives with progressive MS, it brings me great hope to see such international efforts to work together to answer questions about one of the least understood forms of MS," says Caroline Sincock of the U.K., who lives with progressive MS and serves on the Alliance's Scientific Steering Committee.

Learn more at www.ProgressiveMSAlliance.org.

*U.S. $: A total of appx. $14.1 million awarded in Collaborative Network Awards, $4.7 million per award

Canadian $: A total of appx. $18.4 million awarded in Collaborative Network Awards, $ 6.1 million per award

U.K. £: A total of appx. £10.6 million awarded in Collaborative Network Awards, £3.6 million per award

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SOURCE International Progressive MS Alliance

For further information: Eileen Curran, +1- 617-719-3202, Eileen.curran@nmss.org, http://www.progressivemsalliance.org

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