14th December 2023

The International Progressive MS Alliance is funding two major initiatives to address the urgent need for new, effective treatments for people living with MS. The Challenges in Progressive MS Awards will advance the promising findings from six projects that received exploratory grants in 2021 to improve understanding of mechanisms that drive progression, an area where current lack of knowledge is hindering treatment development. The Innovations in Well-Being Awards are the first phase of a large-scale program of research to identify and implement solutions to some of the most challenging symptoms that people with progressive MS experience. Nine projects have been awarded funding to develop expert teams with the potential to develop, test and implement novel therapeutic interventions.

Challenges in Progressive MS Awards

Seventeen pilot projects received exploratory funding in 2021 to identify new avenues in understanding progression. The Alliance is now pleased to announce the funding of six larger and longer-term Challenges in Progressive MS Awards from those initial 17 projects that will focus on several areas including novel insights into axonal loss in progressive MS, molecular pathways that promote neuroprotection and repair, and the testing of potential drugs to slow progression.

“These awards represent important steps forward in progressive MS research and build upon prior investments by the Alliance. We are greatly encouraged by the high quality and great promise of these new projects,” said Dr. Robert Fox of the Cleveland Clinic and Chair of the Alliance Scientific Steering Committee. “Successful results from these studies will accelerate efforts to develop new treatments to stop MS progression.”

The Challenges in Progressive MS Awards are three-year research projects with work initiating in early 2024 and reporting findings in 2027.

Challenges in Progressive MS Award Recipients

  • Laura Airas ─ University of Turku (Finland)
    A clinical proof-of-concept study using A2A adenosine receptor antagonist treatment to reduce smoldering inflammation in progressive MS
  • Jennifer Gommerman ─ University of Toronto (Canada)
    Mechanisms of innate immune – glial cell crosstalk in progressive MS
  • Jeannette Lechner-Scott ─ University of Newcastle (Australia)
    A multi-omics approach to tackling progression in multiple sclerosis
  • David Leppert ─ University Hospital Basel (Switzerland)
    Neurofilament light chain and glial fibrillary acidic protein as tools to prognosticate the clinical course, and to quantify drug response in progressive multiple sclerosis
  • Don Mahad ─ University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom)
    Understanding and targeting neuronal responses to demyelination to protect axons in MS
  • Kenneth Smith ─ University College London (United Kingdom)
    Discovering Mechanisms and Treatments for Progressive Multiple Sclerosis

Innovations in Well-Being Awards

After a worldwide call for proposals that resulted in 51 applications from 11 countries, the Alliance is funding nine Innovation in Well-Being Awards. The awards are the first stage of a well-being research pipeline in which successful awards will demonstrate a strong expert team and research proposal that offers the potential for novel therapeutic interventions or outcomes for progressive MS and can culminate with a large randomized controlled study (Stage 2) and implementation (Stage 3) for adoption into healthcare systems around the world. A 2021 paper published by the Alliance noted that for many of the worst symptoms that may be experienced by individuals living with progressive forms of multiple sclerosis, there are insufficient treatment approaches that can relieve them and improve quality of life. Additionally, it made clear that increased financial investment into studies of symptom management is needed if progress is to be achieved.

“This effort is an important investment in making daily life better for people with progressive MS,” stated Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie, Vice Chair of the Alliance Scientific Steering Committee. “Research is needed to identify, develop, test and implement effective therapies that improve well-being and can be widely adopted.

This urgent need to address the challenging symptoms people with progressive MS experience is underscored by Marie Vaillant, a member of the Alliance Scientific Steering Committee and a person living with progressive MS, “Often the hardest part of living with MS are the things that people don’t see. The debilitating fatigue that overwhelms you or the cognitive impairment where you can’t remember the question that your husband just asked you. Having answers to these challenges would be a game-changer in improving the lives of people with MS.”

The nine projects will focus on the symptoms of pain, mobility, impaired cognition and fatigue.  The first phase of the research projects will initiate in early 2024 and report results in mid-2025.

Innovations in Well-Being Award Recipients

  • Tiffany Braley ─ University of Michigan (United States)
    Personalized circadian synchronization for fatigue and wellness in progressive MS
  • Anne Bruestle ─ Australian National University (Australia)
    Characterising and measuring fatigue in progressive multiple sclerosis; a person-centered approach
  • Dawn Ehde ─ University of Washington (United States)
    Adaptation of evidence-based psychological interventions for pain in progressive multiple sclerosis
  • Peter Feys ─ University of Hasselt (Belgium)
    A multi-modal tailored and adaptive training program to reduce walking fatigability in persons with progressive MS
  • Gabrielle Macaron ─ Centre Recherche Centre Hospitalier Université de Montreal (Canada)
    Comprehensive routine detection of contributors to patient-reported cognitive impairment in patients with progressive multiple sclerosis
  • Roshan das Nair ─ SINTEF (Norway)
    Living well with progressive MS
  • Lara Pilutti ─ University of Ottawa (Canada)
    Novel pairing of brain priming and rehabilitation to restore motor and cognitive abilities in progressive multiple sclerosis
  • Peter Sguigna ─ University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (United States)
    A phase I study of circadian focused light therapy for fatigue reduction in progressive multiple sclerosis
  • Thomas Willingham ─ Shepherd Center (United States)
    Real-time remote patient monitoring system to detect the progression of clinical disability in real-world settings in people with progressive multiple sclerosis

Progressive MS Alliance

14th December 2023