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Winter 2014 - 2015


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2014 Brings Progress and Solutions to People with MS

Each year National Multiple Sclerosis Society investments enable research advances that change the lives of people with MS and 2014 was no exception. The significant progress that occurred, including two new treatment solutions, will help people with MS live their best lives as we continue our work to stop MS in its tracks, restore lost function and end MS forever.

In 2014 the Society invested a record-breaking $50.6 million in 380 new and ongoing research projects and initiatives, bringing total Society investments to $870 million since the organization’s founding. And with your continued partnership, the Society is committed to further accelerating research progress by increasing its annual investment to over $52 million in 2015 – because understanding and ending MS can’t come fast enough.

Here’s a look a 2014 Society driven progress you helped make possible:


  • The International Progressive MS Alliance awarded its first round of 22 research grants – the start of an ambitious program that will invest over $30 million in the next six years.
  • An international team found that levels of vitamin D in serum early in the course of MS may be predictive of later disease activity and progression.
  • The Society is funding several clinical trials of nervous system-protecting approaches including a phase II clinical trial of ibudilast in 250 people with progressive forms of MS.
  • Researchers at Dartmouth published findings in mice related to how gut bacteria may be able to “reset” the immune system to stop immune attacks in MS.


  • University of California at San Francisco researchers identified compounds approved by the FDA for various disorders that might also stimulate myelin repair. A clinical trial stemming from this approach is now underway.
  • A team of researchers at The New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute derived stem cells from the skin of people with primary-progressive MS, and induced them to become myelin-making cells. The cells repaired myelin when transplanted into mice.
  • Canbex leveraged Society commercial seed funding to launch a clinical trial of a novel treatment for MS spasticity.
  • Kessler Foundation researchers published results of a memory training pilot study, in which they show that clinical and MRI improvements were maintained six months after training ended.
  • The Society convened a Wellness Strategy Meeting engaging people with MS and leaders in the fields of diet, exercise and psychology to identify gaps in knowledge and programming and to map out next steps for how these gaps might best be addressed.


  • The International MS Genetics Consortium has now identified more than 159 genetic variations related to MS.
  • Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College reported additional findings related to a potential environmental trigger for MS, showing nerve damage in mice similar to MS.
  • Researchers in Sweden and California showed that adolescent obesity increased risk for MS, and this risk increased substantially in those with specific immune genes.
  • International investigators found that those who reported taking cod liver oil at ages 13-18 had nearly half the risk of developing MS compared to those who never took cod liver oil or took it at other ages.
  • Visit the Society’s website to read more about research progress made in 2014.


The Speed of Progress

As we celebrate the many MS research discoveries in 2014, I am inspired by how far we’ve come in a relatively short time. Over the past 20 years we’ve gone from no treatments for relapsing MS to the 12 we have today. The possibility of repairing myelin and restoring function seemed like science fiction just a few years ago; now its promise is being investigated in several clinical trials.

Solutions for progressive MS are now the focus of investigators worldwide thanks to the mobilization of the International Progressive MS Alliance. Our understanding of genetic susceptibility and risk factors for developing MS has increased enormously, where leads to ending MS are now in sight. And wellness solutions are growing in number, providing people with MS proactive ways to live their best lives.

As you read through the pages of this NOW Quarterly, take a moment to reflect on all that you have done to make this progress possible. Your support has been instrumental to changing lives and I am so very grateful.

I also know that like me, you will not be satisfied until we have achieved our vision of a world free of MS. As we set our course for 2015 and beyond, we must continue to act with urgency to find solutions and change the world for everyone with MS.

With your continued support, I am confident that more life-changing research discoveries are imminent, and that they will bring us closer to our goals to stop MS in its tracks, restore lost function and end MS forever.

Yours truly,


Listen to a Conversation with Progressive MS Alliance Grantees

On October 30th the Society held its latest teleconference with a focus on progressive MS research. Two recipients of the International Progressive MS Alliance’s first round of grants, Drs. Nancy Chiaravalloti and David Pitt, joined the Society’s Chief Advocacy, Services and Research Officer, Dr. Timothy Coetzee on the call to discuss their innovative work in the areas of cognitive rehabilitation and nervous system damage to expedite much needed solutions to people with progressive MS.

These investigators are among the 22 from nine countries receiving Alliance grants for short-term, innovative pilot studies to begin filling knowledge and infrastructure gaps. Their pursuits include identifying and testing potential treatments; understanding nerve degeneration; and building databanks and biobanks -- repositories of biological samples for use in research-- to better understand long-term imaging, genetics, and outcomes associated with progressive MS.

If you missed the discussion on October 30th, visit the Society’s website to listen to a recording of the teleconference.

To learn more about the promising research of all 22 grantees and the ambitious next steps for the Alliance, please visit


With your continued support, the Society will reach our unprecedented $250 million NOW Campaign goal – marking the largest research campaign in history to stop MS, restore lost function and end MS forever.




Barancik Prize Winner Innovates Ways to Prevent and Treat MS

Dr. De Jager proudly poses with Chief Advocacy, Services and Research Officer Dr. Timothy Coetzee, Chuck and Margie Barancik and CEO Cyndi Zagieboylo

Philip L. De Jager, MD, PhD, Neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, is the 2014 recipient of the Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research, an international award established in 2013 to drive progress in multiple sclerosis research. Dr. De Jager, a clinician and a researcher, was selected for his work in applying powerful analytic approaches to better understand how genes and the environment interact with the goal of developing personalized treatments for MS and, ultimately, disease prevention.

Dr. De Jager is a founding member of the International MS Genetics Consortium (IMSGC) and has played a key role in nearly every major gene discovery and advancement over the past decade. Dr. De Jager led the meta-analysis of genome scans that the Consortium published in 2009, which was one of the first instances in which this powerful analytic approach was deployed for any human disease. This work has culminated in the creation of the new MS Genomic Map that will be released in 2015 by the IMSGC.

He is continuing his work through the International MS Genetics Consortium to create a definitive genetic map of MS susceptibility. He, and colleagues worldwide, is using this map to understand the functional consequences of MS genetic risk factors to create potential personalized approaches to predict, treat and ultimately prevent MS.

Dr. De Jager has implemented several novel resources for the MS community, including the PhenoGenetic project with over 1,800 healthy individuals and the Genes & Environment in MS (GEMS) project that recruited over 3,000 MS family members in the last three years. These and other long-term studies will attempt to answer questions that people affected by MS need to know, including why some people develop MS and others don’t, why certain people respond differently to medications and treatments, and why some people’s MS progresses faster than others.

“Overall, I see two compelling and complementary projects,” Dr. De Jager explained. “First is to understand a person’s trajectory from not having MS to their diagnosis. Here, identifying a treatment for the prevention of MS is a key goal of our studies, but it requires a complementary approach to identify the individuals at highest risk of developing the disease since most family members do not develop MS.” Dr. De Jager added, “The second project is to gather enough data on a single, large set of MS patients to set the stage for an impactful discovery effort to understand MS-related neurodegeneration.” For this effort, he has creatively used technology to enhance patient engagement through the use of patient-powered web platforms, electronic health records and smartphone-based tools to better characterize MS participants in these studies.

“We’re thrilled to present the 2014 Barancik Prize to Dr. De Jager for his visionary approach towards understanding the genetic architecture of MS,” said Dr. Timothy Coetzee, Chief Advocacy, Services and Research Officer at the National MS Society. “Dr. De Jager has leveraged his deep understanding of the clinical context of MS with his background in molecular genetics and immunology, to design new ways of approaching and answering challenging MS questions.

” Through Dr. De Jager’s innovative analytical approach to genetics research, he is committed to pursuing critical questions that will change the face of MS clinical care and lead us closer to ending MS.

To preview a video on Dr. De Jager, please visit the Society’s website.

Championing Research Now

Dana FooteDiagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, Society National Board member and Mid-America Chapter Trustee Dana Foote has spent over a decade investing her time, energy and financial resources to improve the lives of people with MS and drive research to end the disease. Dana joined the NOW Campaign Leadership Cabinet in 2013 and has since made strides in mobilizing volunteers both locally and nationally to do something NOW about MS research.


Every day research is bringing us closer to world free of MS. Tell us a bit more about your role as a NOW Campaign Cabinet member and how you stay informed of the latest research advances?

Sure. The NOW Cabinet is a group of volunteers focused on raising $250 million for research to stop MS, restore lost function and end MS Forever. Our job is to be research ambassadors and for that we need to be educated and share what we learn with others; I get amazing access to research through the Society website and always tune into the Society’s research webcasts and teleconferences for the latest news.

How has the Society impacted you personally?

There are several ways... One of my fondest memories with the Society was visiting the Information Resource Center (IRC) in Denver. I got to see the social workers in action, responding to the needs of everyone affected by MS and it changed my life. I realized how many different challenges people with MS face and if they needed anything, we had answers and resources. It was really powerful.

I am also deeply impacted by the Research Programs Advisory Committee (RPAC). This is the committee of renowned scientists who provide advice on how the Society spends their research dollars. I was sitting at the table with such talented scientists and doctors. The man who created the first MS drug, he was at the table! That’s the caliber of people: literally geniuses all working to solve MS.

You have two daughters. Do you ever worry about them developing MS?

Yes, my daughters have the double whammy of MS coming from both parents as my mother-in-law also had MS. I know they haven’t directly linked genetics to MS, but as we have learned from the work of this year’s Barancik Prize winner Dr. Phil De Jager, there are genetic susceptibilities that may combine with other factors to increase risk. I do worry about them. But the fact that in 1992 there were no drugs to treat relapsing remitting MS and now there are 12…I’m hopeful. And, as a NOW Cabinet we continue to focus on Progressive MS.

Those people who live with Progressive MS should have hope. The Society is putting our resources towards ensuring that all people with MS can live their very best lives, and ultimately end MS. I give to support that goal, and I hope everyone will. Our mission is to Stop, Restore and End MS forever. And I believe we will.

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