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Fast Forward Collaborations Aim to Speed MS Diagnosis and Monitoring

November 15, 2012

Fast Forward, LLC, a not-for-profit subsidiary of the National MS Society, is partnering with two companies – DioGenix, Inc. and Ezose Sciences Inc. – each of which has developed novel technology that shows promise in speeding the process of MS diagnosis and management. At this time, there are no symptoms, physical findings or laboratory tests that can, by themselves, determine if a person has MS, and what course the disease will take. Developing tools to improve the speed and accuracy of its diagnosis would allow earlier treatment, which is currently the best weapon available to reduce the impact of MS.

DioGenix: DioGenix is using a unique approach that may provide an earlier and more confident diagnosis of MS based on the pioneering work of Dr. Nancy Monson and colleagues at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, funded in part by the National MS Society. Dr. Monson and her team developed a DNA “signature” for MS – based on patterns of variations in certain immune B cell genes – that might be used to identify people with relapsing-remitting MS early in their disease course. To date, this research has involved primarily analysis of spinal fluid, which is inconvenient to collect. Fast Forward has partnered with DioGenix to extend its novel approach and develop a blood-based MS diagnostic test. The funding from Fast Forward will allow DioGenix to expand its current clinical trial analyzing patients who are being evaluated for MS.  This study targets the analysis of blood in 50 subjects with MS and 50 with other neurological diseases. The award provides DioGenix with up to $490,000 over a 15-month period, and like other Fast Forward partnerships, payments will be contingent upon the completion of specific milestones.

Ezose Sciences: According to reports in the scientific literature, changes in glycans – complex sugars – may be among the earliest molecular changes in MS and thus they may be good candidates for developing new techniques for diagnosing MS. Ezose Sciences has developed a unique technology -- GlycanMap® analysis – which, for the first time, enables analysis of numerous glycan molecules simultaneously. Through the partnership with Fast Forward, Ezose is evaluating up to 150 blood samples from people with relapsing-remitting and primary-progressive MS, and comparing these with controls with other neurologic diseases, to discover novel glycan biomarkers that might be useful as signposts for diagnosing MS and also for determining disease subtypes. Anthony Reder, MD (University of Chicago), an expert in MS neuroimmunology, is providing both scientific and clinical input. The award provides Ezose with up to $390,000 over a 24-month period, and like other Fast Forward partnerships, payments will be contingent upon the completion of specific milestones.

“We are thrilled to be forging these collaborations. Making the diagnosis of MS as quickly and accurately as possible is vital,” said Dr. Timothy Coetzee, Chief Research Officer at the National MS Society. “People who are living with frightening and uncomfortable symptoms want and need to know the reason for their discomfort. Both of these technologies show great promise for helping doctors identify MS earlier and improve chances of stopping the disease in its tracks through early treatment.”

Read about diagnosing MS.

Read more (link to Fast Forward) about Fast Forward.

Read more about efforts to stop MS in its tracks.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.


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