The International Progressive MS Alliance has awarded its second round of 11 grants to collaborative teams of scientists, focused on building the cooperative networks crucial to removing barriers in treatment development for progressive multiple sclerosis. The Alliance is a growing worldwide collaborative focused on finding solutions to progressive forms of multiple sclerosis that have so far eluded the scientific community.
Focused investment in finding treatments and solutions for progressive MS
This second round of funding launches a focused program that will ultimately develop the collaborative worldwide research networks that will accelerate progress in three key areas: 1) Development of pre-clinical drug candidates for progressive MS, 2) Development of meaningful outcomes measures, such as biomarkers, for early clinical integration, and 3) Initiation of clinical trials of new interventions. Together with these awards, the Alliance funded 22 international projects just last year, all part of an ambitious program that will cumulatively invest €22 million, or nearly $25 million, over the next five years.
An impressive 52 applications, involving almost 500 investigators worldwide, were received for consideration of the 12-month Collaborative Network Planning Awards, a €50,000 (nearly $57,000) planning grant. The 11 selected teams will have the opportunity to subsequently apply in 2016 for one of three 4-year, €4.2 million ($4.75 million) grants for the operation of a collaborative network.
“The global commitment to collaboratively addressing – and overcoming – the barriers to developing solutions in progressive MS is inspiring the entire world to do more,” said Cynthia Zagieboylo, Chair of the Alliance Executive Committee and CEO of the National MS Society (USA). “The world is united in ways previously thought impossible to find the solutions the progressive MS community urgently needs,” she added.
World’s Leading Researchers and Institutions Focused on Finding Answers
The 11 projects will be directed by some of the world’s most prominent thought leaders and MS scientists, leveraging the strength of world-renowned institutions and existing networks and knowledge centers. For more information on each grant please visit: www.ProgressiveMSAlliance.org
During the review process, opportunities for collective synergies between some of the highest rated applications were identified. Four of the lead investigators from the funded planning grants agreed to work with other networks as well, recognizing the opportunity to leverage work on similar and complementary projects.
Recipients of planning grant awards in each of the areas are detailed below:
Priority Area 1: Development of one or more pre-clinical drug candidates:
i. Development of a drug discovery pipeline for secondary progressive MS
Francisco Quintana (Brigham and Women's Hospital) – Lead Researcher – (U.S.)
ii. Stem cell-derived oligodendrocyte progenitor-based therapy of progressive MS
Steven Goldman (University of Rochester Medical Center)– Lead Researcher – (U.S.)
iii. Bioinformatics and cell reprogramming to develop an in vitro platform to discover new drugs for progressive multiple sclerosis (BRAVEinMS)
Gianvito Martino (Fondazione Centro San Raffaele-1) – Lead Researcher – (Italy)
iv. Mitochondria and progressive MS
Don Mahad (University of Edinburgh)– Lead Researcher (U.K)
v. An International Network to Decipher Function and Impact of CNS-relevant Risk Variants for MS
David Hafler (Yale University School of Medicine) – Lead Researcher (U.S.)
Priority Area 2: Projects that will drive development of a meaningful outcome measure that could be integrated into early clinical development within the 4-year funding period include:
vi. An MRI biomarker for disability progression for use in clinical trials
Douglas Arnold (McGill University) –– Lead Researcher – (Canada)
vii. SPINE: Spinal cord imaging to Identify Novel biomarkers of disease Evolution and treatment monitoring in progressive MS
Massimo Filippi (Fondazione Centro San Raffaele-1) – Lead Researcher – (Italy)
viii. Prospectively Defining Secondary Progressive MS
Fred Lublin (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai) – Lead Researcher – (U.S.)
ix. Novel molecular imaging probes to predict disability progression and evaluate therapies in MS: The PROBIMS network
Bruno Stankoff (University Pierre et Marie Curie) – Lead Researcher – (France)
x. Development and validation of an innovative, comprehensive measuring system for disease progression in MS/Peter Fuhr (University Hospital Basel)(Switzerland) &
The International MS Visual System Consortium (IMSVISUAL)/Peter Calabresi (The Johns Hopkins University)(U.S.) – Lead Researchers
Priority Area 3: Project that will drive initiate clinical trials of new interventions for progressive MS within the 4-year funding period is:
xi. Cognitive rehabilitation and exercise for people with progressive MS: a multicenter, multidisciplinary study
Anthony Feinstein (Sunnybrook Research Institute) – Lead Researcher (Canada)
In addition, the Alliance has taken the step of linking up three teams that were found meritorious with three teams that submitted proposals in a similar area but which were not selected for funding. The Alliance is encouraging these groups to work together to facilitate greater impact by these teams. The teams to be linked up are:
i. Gene discovery and lead compound identification for Progressive MS; Philip DeJager (Harvard University)– Lead Researcher (U.S.) will link with An International Network to Decipher Function and Impact of CNS-relevant Risk Variants for MS; David Hafler (Yale University School of Medicine) – Lead Researcher (U.S.)
ii. Targeting microglia in progressive MS; Richard Nicholas (Imperial College London) – Lead Researcher (U.K.) will link with Novel molecular imaging probes to predict disability progression and evaluate therapies in MS: The PROBIMS network; Bruno Stankoff (University Pierre et Marie Curie ) – Lead Researcher (France)
iii. Targeting nervous plasticity in progressive MS - a translational approach; Letizia Leocani (San Raffaele University) – Lead Researcher (Italy) will link with Cognitive rehabilitation and exercise for people with progressive MS: a multicenter, multidisciplinary study; Anthony Feinstein (Sunnybrook Research Institute) – Lead Researcher (Canada)
“Not only has worldwide attention to progressive MS increased, but progress toward solutions that will change the world for people with progressive MS is accelerating,” noted Dr. Alan Thompson, Chair of the Alliance’s Scientific Steering Committee and Dean of University College London Faculty of Brain Sciences.
About Progressive MS: Progressive multiple sclerosis, a chronic condition that disrupts the flow of information within the brain and body, is a form of MS that gets worse over time. Each day, progressive MS takes things away from people: vision, mobility, cognition, ability to work, and their very independence. MS is found in every country where studies have been conducted, and more than 2.3 million people worldwide currently live with the disease; over 1 million people live with a progressive form of MS.
About the Alliance: The Progressive MS Alliance is an unprecedented international initiative that is connecting resources and experts around the world to find answers and develop solutions to end progressive MS. The goal of the Alliance is to speed the development of new treatments for progressive MS by funding the best research, wherever it exists. The Alliance is led with management from MS Societies in the United States, Canada, Italy, Australia and the United Kingdom, and the MS International Federation, and expanding financial and resource support from these and other organizations, including the MS Societies of Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain. Learn more at www.ProgressiveMSAlliance.org.