I was sitting among the ACTRIMS Co-Chairs last week, listening to them recap the excellent research that was presented at the conference, and I realized that the debate as to whether it is neurodegeneration or inflammation that plays a primary role in the development of MS is still a burning one. Adding to the complexity of this discussion is whether inflammation plays any role in progressive MS, or if it’s mainly neurodegeneration that drives progression and disability.
These are the big questions that researchers are attempting to address through genetics, cell studies, and animal models. ACTRIMS served as a forum for sharing up-to-date evidence that will help the MS community gain a better understanding of the roles that inflammation and neurodegeneration play in MS, particular progressive MS.
The MS Society’s research team is in the beautiful and historic city of New Orleans for the 2016 Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum. ACTRIMS is a community of leaders in health and research in multiple sclerosis, who are coming together this week to discuss the latest scientific and treatment updates and form collaborations that will accelerate discovery and translation in the MS field. The theme of the conference is “Progressive MS: From Bench to Bedside and Back”. This means that the conference will highlight fundamental research evidence focused on progressive MS, and over the course of the next few days, the presentations will shift to translation of evidence and progress in clinical trials. Close to 60 travel awards were given to young investigators, some of which were provided by the MS Society of Canada as an extension of our efforts to foster a new generation of MS experts. Supporting young investigators is also crucial to ACTRIMS. In fact, the first set of scientific lectures delivered this afternoon were from promising junior researchers in the MS field (you can catch a glimpse of what they presented on my Twitter @Dr_KarenLee). I’ll be updating Twitter and the blog with the events that unfold here in New Orleans. Stay tuned!
ACTRIMS Forum 2016: The numbers
This is the first standalone conference hosted by ACTRIMS, with numbers surpassing the expectations of the conference Co-Chairs Dr. Benjamin Segal from the University of Michigan and Canada’s own Dr. Fiona Costello from the University of Calgary (they are pictured above with ACTRIMS President Dr. Suhayl Dhib-Jalbut from Rutgers University). Here is a breakdown of the numbers:
“Translational research” is a popular term these days, with special relevance for the fields of science and technology. While the process of translational research and commercialization remains complex with many players involved, the overall message is clear: it is the translation of basic research in a lab to a tangible treatment or symptom management tool that is accessible to the person who needs it. Translational research is that step, or many steps, that needs to happen so that discoveries in science can have a real-life benefit for people living with MS.
Today, the MS Society announced funding for two innovative translational research projects focused on progressive MS, in collaboration with the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD). Based in Vancouver, BC, CDRD specializes in helping researchers translate their findings into tangible clinical outcomes. A key element of these recently funded projects is a focus on accelerating the development of new therapeutics for people living with progressive forms of MS. With the help of CDRD, these researchers will explore novel drug targets that, if further developed, have the potential to slow, stop, or reverse progression. We know this is an area of MS research that is urgent, and our collaboration with CDRD aims to speed up the process!
Thisis where translational research comes in. Translational research works by taking scientific discoveries from “bench to bedside”. This process is not always straightforward, and requires coordination between different players in the drug development and regulatory arena. For translational research to work, there needs to be a great deal of communication between all players to accelerate the pace of research and ensure that a treatment is approved for use and made available to people who need it.