Unprecedented global initiative to end progressive MS makes headway


Yesterday the Progressive MS Alliance (PMSA) held a press conference to announce the awardees of their first research grants competition. The 22 successful candidates were selected from close to 200 applications from 22 countries around the world.

U.S. National MS Society CEO Cynthia Zagieboylo (pictured above with members of the PMSA Steering Committee and two grant recipients) stated that the “research community’s response to the PMSA’s first call for innovative research proposals has been exceptional, and speaks to both the unmet need and the galvanizing force of this international initiative”.

The PMSA is unprecedented effort involving researchers, doctors, fundraisers, volunteers, and MS Society staff leaders from around the world. This collaboration, which I am pleased to say the MS Society of Canada is an integral part of, was formed to address the complex issues and unanswered questions surrounding progressive MS. The grant competition marks the first step of an ambitious 5-year, €22 million plan that seeks to stimulate groundbreaking international research, identify and test treatments, build repositories for progressive MS tissue samples, and improve imaging techniques to observe neurodegeneration in greater detail. This plan also includes a comprehensive component on rehabilitation and symptom management, in recognition of the immediate need and critical importance of developing approaches that will manage symptoms in and improve quality of life for people living with progressive MS.

The 22 funded projects funded will focus on a number of key areas:
– Clinical trials and outcome measures
– Biomarkers for progression
– Genetics
– Rehabilitation
– Pathology of progression
– Developing new models that accurately capture progressive MS disease

The PMSA also announced that, in order to sustain progress and enthusiasm, they will soon be launching a second call for research proposals that will focus on funding research teams rather than individual researchers. The purpose of this award is to enable the teams to conduct transformative research in progressive MS that will have life-changing implications in the clinic. Supporting larger teams ensures that experts from all countries and disciplines can work together to overcome the most significant barriers in progressive MS research and treatment. This is truly encouraging and I look forward to witnessing this phase of the PMSA roll out in the months to come.

You can read more about the PMSA and view the full list of the grantees and their research studies on the PMSA website. In the meantime check out our brief interview with one of the grantees, Dr. Don Mahad, who is currently a neurologist treating persons with MS as well as a researcher at the University of Edinburgh in the UK. Dr. Mahad’s work focuses on understanding how energy demands in the brain are related to disease progression in MS.

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