$5. 8 million research grant to fight progressive MS

26 February, 2017
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Francisco Quintana

The International Progressive MS Alliance has recently provided three large multi-year grants to networks of some of the world’s best MS researchers to lead the fight against progressive MS. Each grant is for €4.2 million (A$5.8 million) each and will run over four years. In the first in a series of three articles in our upcoming communiques, MS Research Australia, a Managing Member of the Alliance, will explain what each grant means for people affected by MS. Dr Matthew Miles, CEO of MS Research Australia and an Executive Committee (EC) member of the global Alliance, said that, ‘This is about the world coming together in a united front to find rapid breakthroughs for people with this form of MS. Its acknowledging that when we work seamlessly together, we can achieve much more than we can working alone.’

Francisco Quintana, Ph.D., from one of the leading US hospitals, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, will be leading a global collaboration with eight other investigators from the U.S., Canada and Israel, together with an industry partner, Sanofi Genzyme. They will be working on the “development of a drug discovery pipeline for progressive MS”. The goal here is to swiftly identify drug candidates that can be ready for evaluation in clinical trials in patients within four years of the initiation of this research.

The project’s central idea is that targeting the innate immune system (the arm of the immune system that usually plays a frontline role in defending our bodies) will uncover effective therapeutic approaches for progressive MS. The innate immune system normally functions to protect the body from infections. Dr Quintana and others have found that innate immune cells that reside within the central nervous system can contribute to ongoing nervous system damage in MS and other diseases, even when the immune cells from the blood are no longer invading and attacking the brain. His team recently identified the biological pathways that control the innate immune response. They also found that genetic manipulation of the pathways can arrest nerve damage and alter disease progression in pre-clinical MS animal models; however no candidate drugs suitable for use in humans are available to modulate the activity of innate immune cells. Their study will:

  • Identify the processes that control the innate immune response in the central nervous system
  • Evaluate the activity of identified drugs on the innate immune system in experimental models of progressive MS
  • Analyse how the drugs exert their beneficial effect
  • Identify additional targets and therapies that impact the innate immune system in progressive MS

The ultimate, overall goal is to rapidly identify potential new drugs to combat progressive MS. Collaborating widely with some of the world’s best researchers and an industry partner from the outset will be the best way to facilitate the potential for quick breakthroughs.

London-based, world-renowned researcher and Chair of the Scientific Steering Committee of the International Progressive MS Alliance, Professor Alan Thomson said that ‘these grants are to identify new treatments in MS and all three (of the Collaborative Network Awards) are entirely focused on that.’

Dr Miles adds that, ‘many global research alliances in other diseases have been tried but haven’t been able to capture that intense spirit of research collaboration. The success of our global MS Alliance has already been noticed and written about by global research thought-leaders. MS Research Australia is proud to play a key role in the Alliance and I would expect some significant benefits to come from this- in an area of research that needs our focused attention.’

MS Research Australia’s support of International Progressive MS Alliance is made possible by the generosity of some of our funding partners including Foundation 5 Million+ and the MS Society of WA.

Below is a recent webcast with Dr. Francisco Quintana which attracted over 1400 registrants. If you would like to read more about the International Progressive MS Alliance and its Collaborative Network Awards please visit www.progressivemsalliance.org

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