25th May 2021

The International Progressive MS Alliance (Alliance) is funding 19 Research Challenge Awards to improve the understanding of mechanisms that drive progression, an area where the current lack of knowledge is hindering treatment development. The goal of the funding initiative is to identify new therapeutic targets resulting in treatments that will ultimately slow or stop disability progression.

The awards follow a worldwide call for applications and review by an international panels of MS experts including people affected by MS. Priority was given to applications that were innovative, collaborative and not incremental advances on existing knowledge but rather explore new avenues in understanding progression. Researchers from 13 countries will each receive an award of up to €75,000 for one year. The total research investment by the Alliance is €1,425,000.  

“These awards represent an important advancement in progressive MS research and will build upon prior investments by the Alliance. We are greatly encouraged by the high quality and diversity of the funded projects,” said Professor Alan Thompson, Chair of the Alliance Scientific Steering Committee. “Successful results from these studies will greatly accelerate the development of new treatments for people with progressive MS.”

Funded projects will focus in several areas including identifying novel insights into axonal loss in progressive MS and molecular pathways that promote neuroprotection and myelin repair. Funding will begin later this year with results being reported in 2022.


Challenge Award Recipients

  • Martina Absinta – Johns Hopkins University (USA)
    Multi-omic predictors of chronic inflammation in multiple sclerosis
  • Laura Airas – Turku University Hospital (Finland)
    Exploring the role of A2A adenosine receptor in the pathogenesis of progressive MS
  • David Baker – Queen Mary University of London (UK)
    A novel route to neuronal and oligodendrocyte protection via targeting of anandamide-sensitive, potassium channels
  • Francesco Bifari – University of Milan (Italy)
    Branched chain amino acids-induced persistent metabolic shift towards oxidative phosphorylation in immune and neural cells: a potential new therapy for Progressive Multiple Sclerosis
  • Massimiliano Calabrese – University of Verona (Italy)
    Detecting the immunological basis of neurodegeneration and microglial activation in early MS patients
  • Ludovico Cantuti-Castelvetri – Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen (Germany)
    Lysosomal targeting strategies to enhance remyelination in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis
  • Alessandro Didonna – University of California, San Francisco (USA)
    Tau misfolding and progression in multiple sclerosis
  • Jessica Fletcher – University of Melbourne (Australia)
    Identifying novel phosphorylation events to drive myelin repair
  • Jeroen Geurts – VU University Medical Center (The Netherlands)
    Blistering of the axon-myelin unit as prodromal stage of axonal degeneration in progressive MS: the role of calpain-cathepsin axis
  • Jennifer Gommerman – University of Toronto (Canada)
    Innate immune – Glial cell crosstalk in progressive MS
  • An Goris – University of Leuven (Belgium)
    Early microglial activation contributes to long-term progression in MS
  • Simon Hametner – Medical University of Vienna (Austria)
    Multimodal decoding of CD163 immune cell function in progressive MS
  • Jeannette Lechner-Scott – John Hunter Hospital (Australia)
    Epigenetics of MS progression
  • David Leppert – University Hospital Basel (Switzerland)
    Neurofilament light chain (NfL) turnover in blood circulation in physiological conditions and animal models of MS
  • Don Mahad – University of Edinburgh (UK)
    Understanding the neuronal cell body response to demyelination to protect axons in MS
  • David Martinelli – University of Connecticut Health Center (USA) [Funding declined as other funding received]
    A novel signaling pathway to promote oligodendrocyte maturation leading to a new treatment for multiple sclerosis
  • Claire McCoy – Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (Ireland)
    Unraveling the role of miRNAs, in particular miR-448 in the demyelination process and its potential as a novel therapeutic in primary progressive MS
  • Kenneth Smith – University College London (UK)
    Understanding the molecular pathways involved in protection from secondary progressive disease
  • Bernard Zalc – ICM, Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle (France)
    Microglia and remyelination


Find out more about the International Progressive MS Alliance, its goals, track record and international partners.

Progressive MS Alliance

25th May 2021