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 panel 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 explored 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 have been announced just in time for World MS Day 2021. This is timely as one of the key angles of the World MS Day ‘MS Connections’ campaign focuses on connecting people  People affected by progressive MS played a central role in selecting the awards, evaluating the relevance, importance and potential impact of the research.

Professor Alan Thompson, Chair of the Alliance Scientific Steering Committee:

‘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. Successful results from these studies will greatly accelerate the development of new treatments for people with progressive MS.’

Peer Baneke, CEO of the MS International Federation, said:

‘I am sure that all people affected by MS around the world and in our global MS movement will be delighted that researchers from 13 different countries will receive this Alliance funding. Only by pooling our resources and insights through international collaboration can we truly advance our understanding of progression. The awards take us closer to new treatments for people affected by progressive MS around the world and we will follow the researchers’ progress with anticipation.’

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)

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

 About the International Progressive MS Alliance

MSIF is proud to be a founding member of the International Progressive MS Alliance. The Alliance exists to accelerate the development of effective treatments for people with progressive forms of multiple sclerosis to improve quality of life worldwide. It is an unprecedented global collaboration of MS organisations, researchers, health professionals, the pharmaceutical industry, companies, trusts, foundations, donors and people affected by progressive MS, working together to address the unmet needs of people with progressive MS ─ rallying the global community to find solutions. Our promise is more than hope, it is progress.