It’s an exciting time in MS research. How are we planning to maintain critical discovery in such a challenging economic environment?
First, we are moving ahead. This year alone, we’re providing more than $33.5 million to support 345 new and ongoing projects in our core research portfolio, plus $1.5 million for Fast Forward, our drug development subsidiary, which is also attracting its own new funding streams. Thanks to the efforts of our MS activists, an additional $5 million has been specifically set aside for MS research out of the 2009 Department of Defense budget.
Second, we have three clear research goals — stop MS, reverse the damage, and end MS forever. Here are some exciting projects making headway in our three-pronged approach:
- Our portfolio of projects focusing on immune aspects of MS, in particular the large-scale clinical trial of a pregnancy hormone, estriol, and Fast Forward’s recent investments in promising immune-modulating molecules are opening up new avenues to stop MS.
- Our research on rehabilitation and health care delivery, and our four international teams working on nervous system protection and repair (funded by the Promise: 2010 campaign) are making tremendous progress, including plans for small-scale clinical trials to test the safety of cell therapy. These are examples of strategies to reverse the damage.
- The definitive scan for all common MS-related genes being performed by the International MS Genetics Consortium promises a wealth of data. This international collaboration launched by society funding has the potential to help us find ways to end MS forever.
And finally, we are prioritizing our spending to focus on what’s most important. Our choices — which we believe will be temporary — include:
- To continue to fund our discovery research portfolio and fellowships at reduced levels.
- To place some research award programs on hold.
We hope that the reduction will be of short duration. Should it become necessary to continue on this path, we know that some established researchers and some promising young scientists will abandon MS to move into areas where funding is more plentiful. We have to do everything possible to keep them in the MS field.
We are poised to make quantum leaps forward. Exciting new technologies, like gene chips, proteomics, and new imaging techniques are allowing scientists to visit age-old questions about MS in new ways. Now more than ever, we need the flexibility and resources to pursue the most promising leads.
Each of us plays a crucial role in fueling MS research and ensuring that the brightest minds continue to pursue the answers that we so anxiously await. Now is the time when each of us must take stock of our own priorities and ask, “What more can I do?” and “Who else do I know who could help?” Please act now!