MS Research Australia and the global MS effort

07 December, 2016

Collaboration has become an important requirement for progress and achievement in business, industry and the not-for-profit sector. At MS Research Australia we are proud that collaboration has been one of our strengths and strategic direction since establishment in 2004.

We have adopted the philosophy that ‘if you want to take small steps – compete, if you want to take giant leaps – collaborate.’

MS Research Australia has a good reputation in the sector as being proactive and successful in this arena, both nationally and now increasingly globally. This now includes collaboration with other Australian charities involving different diseases or disease groups and, of course, global MS organisations.

One of the first collaborative projects supported by MS Research Australia 10 years ago was the Ausimmune study, a multicentre Australian study, following over 300 people diagnosed with a first episode of MS, providing a greater understanding of the potential role of the Epstein Barr virus and confirmation of other environmental factors such as vitamin D, sunlight, smoking, diet and exercise.

Other large collaborations have included the ANZgene study, the Vitamin D MS Prevention trial and the MS Research Australia Brain Bank.

Most recently, MS Research Australia joined the International Progressive MS Alliance to increase the focus and research efforts into finding a solution for people with progressive MS. Not only has MS Research Australia invested financially in the Alliance, but as a managing member we have allocated a significant commitment of staff resources for the global working teams. Several key MS Research Australia staff, board members and representatives are playing active roles in the management of the Alliance, including the executive committee, the scientific steering committee, the research work team, communications and fundraising team.

With 14 countries involved in the Alliance and the varying time zones, it often means our Australian team are joining teleconferences and meetings in the early hours of the morning or late at night, but the unanimous objective of ending the fight against progressive MS far outweighs any difficulties.

Globally A$31 million (€22 million) has been pledged so far to the Alliance, and over 480 MS researchers from all over the globe were involved in the last funding round. This is an outstanding example of a global alliance with a common goal and shared values.

Another way we are looking to foster collaboration is by bringing together other immune disease research charities to foster sharing of ideas to accelerate research progress. Much of the progress in MS has been a direct result of investigation into the autoimmune field; this collaborative endeavour is clearly an incredibly valuable field of research. We have been thrilled to be able to convene a working group in this space and get significant participation.

One of the largest scale global collaborations is currently underway in research fundraising with 11 countries taking on the MS Research Australia-founded Kiss Goodbye to MS campaign. Nothing has been seen on this sort of scale before and it’s exciting to see different countries around the world making the campaign their own and accessing additional funds for research.

MS Research Australia is committed to developing and exploring research initiatives and collaborations. We believe this will provide the ability to galvanise and convene the best researchers from around the country and globe and dedicate them to a common unmet need, a world free from MS.

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