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MS Research Australia joins the Progressive MS Alliance

DNA cells
15 September 2014

MS Research Australia has joined MS organisations in the USA, UK, Italy, Denmark, Spain and Canada in a global alliance to end progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), making Australia the first member in the Southern Hemisphere to have a seat at the table.

The International Progressive MS Alliance, coordinated by the MS International Federation is the most ambitious collaborative project the global MS movement has ever embarked upon, with MS Research Australia pledging A$1.1 million over the next three years.

MS is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. Progressive MS is the most debilitating and under researched form of the condition.

"Working in isolation on an issue such as progressive MS risks duplicating efforts or making only slow progress" said Dr Matthew Miles, Chief Executive Officer, MS Research Australia. "By enabling global collaboration, this alliance is dedicated to fast-tracking the type of discoveries that can truly change lives" he added.

News of MS Research Australia’s appointment to the Alliance coincides with the announcement of the first round of 22 research grants to investigators in nine countries. Amongst successful applicants is established Australian MS researcher Dr Steven Petratos from Monash University who has received funding to continue his novel exploration into methods to prevent the degeneration of myelin and nerve fibres in MS, an important area of research which hopes to lead to discoveries that could prevent illness progression and deterioration.

Grant recipients not only benefit from funding but will also have the opportunity to forge international collaborative research networks. The Alliance will fund the best global projects that target the key challenges in progressive MS research: better understand progression; design shorter, faster trials that measure patient outcomes; conduct trials to test new therapies; and to develop and evaluate new therapies to manage symptoms.

"As one of the world’s leading MS organisations, the scientific experience, expertise and financial resources that MS Research Australia can bring to the Alliance will add enormous strength to the initiative," said Professor Alan Thompson, a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, Vice- Dean at University College London and an international authority on MS.

"There are already considerable research efforts underway that will align with the work of the Alliance such as the MS Research Australia Brain Bank and the MS Clinical Trials Network," he added.

Whilst ten approved disease-modifying therapy options exist for people with relapsing-remitting MS in Australia, people with progressive forms of MS have very limited treatment options and much less is known about this form of the condition.

Fifty per cent of people with relapsing-remitting MS will have progressive MS within 10 years whilst 90% will develop progressive MS within 25 years1. Around 10% of people are diagnosed with the primary progressive form of MS from the outset2. Their neurologic functions steadily worsen from onset and typically they experience only temporary or minor improvements, but for most, there are very few remissions.

"I experienced my first symptoms of MS 28 years ago. Since then I’ve gradually lost much of my independence; particularly my ability to walk", said Stewart MacLennan, who is living with progressive MS.

"I’m convinced that working in collaboration we are destined to see some very exciting outcomes which will slow down the progress of the disease and before too much longer lead to the cure we all wish for."

MS Research Australia joins the Alliance as a managing member, with a key role in the Executive Committee and contributing technical advice and expertise. MS Research Australia will also continue to fund the best progressive MS research here in Australia as has been the case over the last decade.

For more information on the Progressive MS Alliance you can visit their website at www.progressivemsalliance.org/

For more information on this announcement visit www.msra.org.au/progressive-ms-alliance