Exciting News for Progressive MS Research

Hello from the ACTRIMS-ECTRIMS meeting in Boston. Today I had the honor of participating in a press conference to announce important news about the International Progressive MS Alliance. I was joined by my colleagues from around the world to share the Alliance strategies for ending progressive MS, and we also answered questions from a room full of reporters from around the world.

The Alliance announced the launch of 22 new research grants to investigators in 9 countries, who will be taking intriguing new approaches to overcome barriers to developing treatments for progressive MS. Many of the new grant recipients were at the press conference, and the atmosphere was electric!

The press conference was held by the International Progressive MS Alliance, a worldwide collaborative focused on finding solutions for people who have progressive forms of MS. I have the privilege of serving on the Scientific Steering Committee for the Alliance, which is focused on facilitating global collaboration to build research infrastructure and share knowledge, as well as increase worldwide funding capacity to drive large-scale global research initiatives. The National MS Society was one of the founding members of the Alliance, now represented by MS Societies in the United States, Canada, Italy, Australia, Spain, Denmark and the United Kingdom, and the MS International Federation.  

This press conference was the culmination of so much work by many dedicated people. (Read more about the Alliance here). The Scientific Steering Committee has identified four priorities, representing the most significant barriers to the development of treatments for progressive MS, and is focused on removing those barriers. To realize new treatments, the Alliance funds the best science with the clearest path to success, wherever it exists around the world. Through other committees, which are focused on helping drive the work through fundraising and communications, the Alliance is leveraging and fueling progress.

The Alliance received an astounding 195 applications from 22 different countries in response to this first request for applications. This really speaks to the ability of the Alliance to galvanize attention and attract strategic research activities to drive solutions for people with progressive MS. 

This first round of funding supports short-term (one to two years) innovative “pilot” studies to begin creating new knowledge and filling critical scientific infrastructure gaps. These include projects like identifying potential new treatments, identifying existing treatments being used in other related disorders for “repurposing therapies”, and understanding nerve degeneration that drives progression. Additional projects include building databanks of imaging and genetics information and biobanks of biological samples that are critically important resources that scientists need to really move the field forward.

And this is just the beginning. This fall, the Alliance plans to release a new Request for Applications that will support and stimulate international networks of research collaborations. Over five years, there’s a plan to invest €22 million – that’s about $30 million in U.S. dollars. This incredible effort will focus and leverage research that will stimulate new ideas, new research tools, and move us closer to a world free of MS.

If you want to learn more about the Alliance, its membership and research priorities, and the new research projects being launched, I encourage you to visit the website: www.ProgressiveMSAlliance.org.

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Bruce Bebo, PhD

Bruce Bebo, PhD, is Executive Vice President, Research at the National MS Society, and was previously a research immunologist focusing on the influence of sex hormones on MS. He is a driven and passionate Society volunteer, successful fundraiser and advocate, fueled in part by the fact that his mother had MS.