- MS Australia has funded nearly $7 million for MS research grants commencing in 2022.
- These projects address MS Australia’s priorities for MS research, including causes and prevention, better treatments and cures via repair and regeneration of cells.
- Myelin repair, one of the largest areas of unmet need, was the focus of a new targeted call project grant round.
Twenty-six new projects, ranging from one-year innovative studies to major three-year projects, have received grant funding from MS Australia in 2022. The new grants also include fellowships and scholarships that help support and grow the Australian MS research workforce and promote global collaborations to stop MS in its tracks. This is MS Australia’s largest–ever annual grant funding commitment – an outstanding achievement in the 50th year since the formation of this national organisation to drive awareness, research and support for people living with MS.
MS Australia has awarded four senior research fellowships to established MS researchers who are leaders in the MS research community, providing security and funding support for these individuals to guide and develop their research teams. Also awarded were three targeted call project grants, which aim to boost funding in the remyelination, neuroprotection and neurodegeneration space, to provide avenues to enhance repair and restore function in those with MS.
The 2022 funding covers a range of different MS research priorities, including causes and prevention, better treatments and cures via repair and regeneration of cells. The grants focus on various areas within these themes, such as the mechanisms underlying progressive MS, the role of different immune cells in MS, depression, diet, exercise, new drug candidates to treat MS and myelin repair. MS is a very complex disease making it necessary to address all of these areas to help gain a full understanding of the disease and come up with the best ways to combat it. As always, these grants were selected following a rigorous external expert review of applications overseen by our Research Management Council. This process ensures that projects and researchers funded are of the highest quality and have the most significant potential to make a difference for people living with MS. Unfortunately, due to limited resources, not every high-quality project could be funded, and we continue to strive to find ways to extend the funding envelope each year.
One of the studies looking into causes and prevention of MS will be undertaken by Associate Professor Alexander Klistorner from the Save Sight Institute at the University of Sydney NSW. Associate Professor Klistorner will investigate what causes MS to progress, which remains poorly understood. He will study several potential mechanisms of disease progression using non-invasive imaging techniques in people with secondary progressive MS. Understanding the driving forces behind progression in MS is of paramount significance to hopefully pave the way for new treatments.
Many of the new projects and fellowships will focus on improving treatments for people with MS. Dr Milena Gandy from Macquarie University NSW will test a remotely delivered psychological treatment for people with MS who experience depression, anxiety and other functional difficulties. Both Associate Professor Yasmine Probst from the University of Wollongong NSW and Associate Professor Lucinda Black from Curtin University WA will be studying diet and nutrition for the management of MS. Dr Izanne Roos from the University of Melbourne VIC will use a statistical model that predicts the risk of developing aggressive MS at the earliest stages of MS. She will then determine whether the use of highly effective therapies can prevent aggressive disease in those people at high risk. Ms Terry Purton from the University of Tasmania TAS will be investigating the effects of consuming probiotics on cognitive symptoms (thinking and memory), signs of inflammation and gut bacteria in people with MS.
Several studies will be focusing on a cure for MS via the repair and regeneration of cells, one of the most significant areas of unmet need. This will hopefully pave the way towards halting progression completely. These include Professor Tomas Kalincik and Professor Trevor Kilpatrick, who received the Paired Fellowship. This unique grant funds a researcher and clinician to collaborate on a shared program of research that will accelerate the translation of research outcomes into clinical practice. The team will first develop and validate a set of signs or markers that will be sensitive enough to detect subtle changes in people with seemingly well-controlled MS. They will then generate a new method for monitoring the activity of the immune system within the brain. Finally, the team will develop a promising treatment for progressive MS. Dr Steven Petratos from Monash University VIC is looking at blocking the modification of a specific protein or interaction between this protein and another which leads to nerve fibre damage. This work will hopefully halt disease progression and provide recovery from disability. Associate Professor Kaylene Young from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research TAS will progress her first potential myelin replacement therapy through a phase II clinical trial evaluating its effectiveness in people with MS, and investigate how myelin loss and replacement impact brain function in laboratory models. She will also study families with an unusually high incidence of MS, which may provide clues to the genetics of MS. Ultimately, her goal is to carry out laboratory research to identify signalling pathways that lead to the development of MS, learn how MS impacts brain circuit function, and design and translate treatments to protect and repair the brain.
We are very grateful to the MS community, our donors and funding partners, including MS Limited, MSWA, MS Society of SA & NT and the National Health and Medical Research Council, for making it possible to fund these amazing researchers as they work towards stopping MS in its tracks.
This is just a brief overview of some of the new research projects funded in 2022. The full details of these and the other projects we are funding in 2022 can be found here.
A summary of the current and ongoing research projects funded by MS Australia can be found in our Snapshot Document here.