The International Progressive MS Alliance has announced that it is investing a further €3 million to support the next phase of a collaborative network led by Francisco Quintana, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, to further develop promising compounds that target critical disease activities that drive progressive MS and brain injury.

An innovative research tool

With previous funding from the Alliance, the network researchers investigated mechanisms involved in progressive MS, including the activity of immune cells in the brain called microglia. They screened compounds with potential for stopping key biological processes involved in progressive MS. Among their advances, they innovated a new tool to identify interactions between microglia and brain cells called astrocytes, both of which are involved in driving damaging activity in MS.

This new tool enabled the researchers to identify molecules involved in the signals sent by microglia that turn on harmful inflammation by astrocytes. They were then able to block these harmful signals with an experimental compound to stop MS-like disease in mice.

Next phase

With the new funding from the Alliance, Dr. Quintana and collaborators have teamed up with drug development experts to devise a safe and optimal version of this and potentially other compounds that target microglia-astrocyte signaling, and then conduct tests in MS models.

“We are very pleased that our initial investment in the Drug Discovery Collaborative Research Network led by Dr. Quintana has identified promising drug candidates for treating progressive MS,” said Robert Fox, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic, who is serving as Chair of the Alliance’s Scientific Steering Committee.

“This next phase of investment will enable the team to advance their discovery to refine, optimize, and test the most promising compounds and identify which are ready to undergo the final development steps in order to test them in people.” Robert added.

Collaborative efforts

Dr. Quintana is joined by co-lead Kevin Hodgetts, Ph.D., also of Harvard. They have teamed up with previous collaborators Jack Antel, M.D., of the Montreal Neurological Institute, and Alexandre Prat, M.D., Ph.D., of the Université de Montréal. The team has also enlisted the expertise of medicinal chemists, drug development specialists, and contract research organizations to help expedite these efforts.

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The Intrernational Progressive MS Alliance is a 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.

This project is just one aspect of a global effort to accelerate the development of effective treatments for people with progressive MS to improve quality of life worldwide. Learn more about the Alliance’s Strategic Plan to end progressive MS.