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International Progressive MS Alliance Invests in Next Steps for Project to Develop Therapies to Stop MS Progression

October 10, 2022

-- 3 million Euros committed to advance research by scientists at Harvard and international collaborators to develop and refine candidate compounds identified through previous Alliance investments
The International Progressive MS Alliance, in which the National MS Society plays a key leadership and supporting role, has just committed 3 million Euros to support the next phase of a collaborative network led by Francisco Quintana, PhD, of Harvard Medical School. The goal is to further develop promising compounds that target critical disease activities that drive progressive MS and brain injury.
  • Background: With previous Alliance funding, network researchers investigated mechanisms involved in progressive MS, including the activity of immune cells in the brain called microglia. They screened compounds with potential for stopping key biological processes involved in progressive MS.
  • Among their advances, they innovated a new tool to identify interactions between microglia and brain cells called astrocytes, both of which are involved in driving damaging activity in MS. Having this new tool in hand, the team identified molecules involved in the signals sent by microglia that turn on harmful inflammation by astrocytes. They were then able to block these harmful signals with an experimental compound to stop MS-like disease in mice.
  • Next Steps: With the new funding from the Alliance, Dr. Quintana and collaborators have teamed up with drug development experts to devise a safe and optimal version of this and potentially other compounds that target microglia-astrocyte signaling, and then conduct tests in MS models. At the same time their other collaborators will continue to seek additional candidates that may be capable of inhibiting harmful activity in progressive MS.
  • Dr. Quintana is joined by co-lead Kevin Hodgetts, PhD, also of Harvard. They have teamed up with previous collaborators Jack Antel, MD, of the Montreal Neurological Institute, and Alexandre Prat, MD, PhD, of the Université de Montréal. The team has also enlisted the expertise of medicinal chemists, drug development specialists, and contract research organizations to help expedite these efforts.
“We are very pleased that our initial investment in the Drug Discovery Collaborative Research Network led by Dr. Quintana has identified promising drug candidates for treating progressive MS,” said Robert Fox, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic, who is serving as Chair of the Alliance’s Scientific Steering Committee. “This next phase of investment will enable the team to advance their discovery to refine, optimize, and test the most promising compounds and identify which are ready to undergo the final development steps in order to test them in people.”
This project is just one aspect of a global effort to accelerate the development of effective treatments for people with progressive MS to improve quality of life worldwide. Additional research investments and new initiatives are expected in the coming months.
Learn more about the Alliance’s Strategic Plan to end progressive MS

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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