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Encouraging Innovation


The Society fuels novel ideas, potential therapies, projects and technologies to discover and pursue every avenue that holds promise:

  • Funding university-based research and clinical trials to feed the drug pipeline, and pursuing industry partnerships for drug development.
  • Exploring non-traditional research avenues, including: health care policy/delivery; quality of life; complementary/alternative therapies; and concepts initiated within the pharma/biotech industries.
  • Funding investigator-initiated and Society-targeted research. We invite scientists to come to us with their new ideas to be tested, and we also proactively target promising areas that are ripe for exploration.
  • Supporting the international Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research, the largest prize of its kind, established to spur progress toward stopping MS, restoring function and ending MS forever.

Another way the Society propels MS research forward is by funding high-risk, high-potential pilot projects to investigate new, untested ideas and attract new researchers to the field. These unique one-year grants allow researchers to quickly gather data needed to determine if their novel ideas are worth pursuing. A researcher who submits a pilot research proposal will receive fast-track reviews and approvals to speed the testing of new ideas. Some quick facts about our pilot projects:

  • One-year grants
  • Any topic or technique relevant to MS research
  • Quick turnaround: applications are reviewed quarterly
  • Pilots attract new talent: About half of pilot grant recipients are new to National MS Society funding

Here is a sampling of recent pilot research projects:

  • Stephen Rao, PhD (The Cleveland Clinic Foundation) is testing the effectiveness of a test for detecting cognitive dysfunction in MS, which can be quickly and easily administered using an iPad, in 60 people with MS and 60 healthy controls.
  • Margot Mayer‐Proschel, PhD (University of Rochester, NY) is investigating a possible role for HHV6 (a common virus that usually persists in the brain and spinal cord in a latent form) in myelin damage in MS.
  • Angeliki Nikolakopoulou, PhD (University of California, Riverside) is exploring a molecule that may enhance the regeneration of damaged nerve cells, by studying this molecule in tissue samples from people with MS and a model of MS-like disease.