Monthly Archives: February 2014

A critical partnership to speed the delivery of treatments, and ultimately find a cure, for MS

I’m here in Vancouver, British Columbia with MS Society colleagues, government officials, donors and people living with MS to take part in a very important announcement for the MS Society and for the many Canadians affected by multiple sclerosis. Today we announced a partnership with the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD). This partnership has been created with one goal in mind: to speed up the development of new treatments, and find a cure, for people living with MS.

When I look back over the years I can recall a lot of great research that has been done to better understand, diagnose and manage MS. Studies funded by the MS Society, in addition to what has been conducted around the world, has changed the landscape of MS research in monumental ways. But one thing that always seems to come up in my conversations with people with MS is that advancements in research still take a very long time, and they fear that they will not see the true benefits or impacts of the research in their lifetime.

This led to the establishment of a very important collaboration with an organization that not only has the tools and resources to speed up treatment delivery for MS, but is located right here in our very own country. CDRD is Canada’s first and only fully-integrated national drug development and commercialization centre. They provide expertise and infrastructure to foster the development of innovative ideas and promising drug candidates stemming from the world’s best research institutions. CDRD possesses the ability to find these discoveries, and determine if they can become safe and effective treatments options for people affected by conditions like MS.

Essentially, CDRD is an expert in ‘translational research’, a term which refers to taking basic knowledge from laboratory-based research and applying it in ways that have meaningful impacts in the clinic i.e. a new therapy, diagnostic tool, etc. Although powerful, translational research comes with many challenges. It requires specific skills and expertise, and a lot of time and resources. Funders may also be reluctant to support translational research because of the many complex steps involved. This is why we have reached out to CDRD – we want to work with them to find and test treatments for people with MS much quicker and easier.

I have had the opportunity to meet many of the staff here at the CDRD headquarters, including CEO Dr. Karimah Es Sabar. I am truly impressed by the level of talent and passion displayed here. I am also very encouraged and excited for what is to come from this partnership. The first step is a call for research proposals that is open to scientists from around the world. The goal of this call is to fund studies that will lead to treatments for progressive MS.

A special announcement from the MS Society

February has turned out to be a very busy month for the MS Society. Today we announced the launch of a collaborative study that will uncover important knowledge and bring out more effective treatments for MS. Collaborative studies, as the name implies, involve many researchers and institutions, both in Canada and abroad.

Collaboration across regions and scientific expertise is what propels science forward. Many things are possible alone, but with the help of others the possibilities in what you can accomplish in research are endless.

For this new collaborative study that the MS Society is funding along with its affiliated MS Scientific Research Foundation, three of the world’s most renowned MS experts are teaming up to investigate the role of the B cell in MS. The B cell is one of many white blood cells that comprise the body’s immune system. The primary function of the B cell is to make antibodies against foreign agents like viruses and bacteria. Once they are produced, the antibodies circulate in the body as a means of surveillance, looking to see if the foreign agent returns.

Emerging research suggests that B cells may have an important role in MS. More specifically, B cells may be contributing to tissue damage in the central nervous systems (brain and spinal cord) in people with MS. This new study led by Dr. Amit Bar-Or from McGill University (Montreal), Dr. Alexandre Prat from University of Montreal, and Dr. Jen Gommerman from University of Toronto will break down the exact mechanism by which B cells influence the course of MS.

Therapies designed to target B cells have already been very effective in improving health outcomes in people with MS, but these therapies are very risky and can lead to immune deficiency in the long term. Thus, this study will determine which types of B cells are most involved in MS, and this information will lead to therapies that will only go after the bad guys, leaving the rest of the immune system intact and ready to combat infection.

Drs. Bar-Or, Prat and Gommerman all bring a wealth of skills and experiences to the table. Dr. Bar-Or is a neurologist with lots of years of experience treating people with MS, and is a world-leader in immunology. Dr. Prat is also an MS neurologist who, in a short period of time, has had a very prolific career in biological research. Dr. Gommerman is an expert in animal research and B-cell biology. She will provide critical information about the conditions B cells need to survive and function.

This collaborative study will not only provide information about the cause of MS, but also help us to better understand progressive MS – a debilitating form of the disease that is currently without treatment.

You can learn more about the MS Society-supported study by visiting our website.