Finding the answers for Progressive MS

The International Progressive MS Alliance recently announced its first round of prestigious research grants to 22 investigators in nine countries.

This first round of funding launches an ambitious program that will cumulatively invest A$31 million (€22 million) over the next six years, and will forge international collaborative research networks — leveraging on research already underway and stimulating new research through the Alliance’s significant funding programs.

For the first time, MS organisations around the globe, including MS Research Australia are funding research together, without considering geography, in order to find the answers the progressive MS community urgently needs.

The projects include ground-breaking investigations into innovative therapeutic avenues for both pharmaceutical and applied interventions; new biological markers that can be used to identify and monitor illness progression; new clues into the genetic basis and biological causes of MS progression; and new laboratory models that provide a more efficient way of studying the disease.

The 22 projects will be directed by scientists at leading research institutions worldwide and includes Australian recipient, Dr Steven Petratos from Monash University.

Key areas being investigated:

Clinical trials and outcome measures:

  • Associate Professor Peter Feys, Hasselt University (Belgium) – This study could enhance the ability to determine the best rehabilitation and exercise interventions for people with progressive MS, and provide the data needed to advocate for its widespread use to improve lives.
  • Dr Paul Matthews, Imperial College London (United Kingdom) – This study will provide real-time information about symptoms and disability progression and can help to track the course of MS and determine the effectiveness of treatments designed to stop progression.
  • Professor Peter Calabresi, Johns Hopkins University (United States) – This study may point to a new treatment approach for stopping MS progression in some people with MS, and also provide a new biomarker for tracking the success of this treatment.
  • Associate Prefessor Junqian Xu, Mount Sinai School of Medicine (United States) – This study is developing methods for tracking nervous system damage that occurs during MS progression and is crucial for clinical trials that set out to determine the effectiveness of strategies at stopping or reversing this progression.
  • Dr Anders Svenningsson, Umeå University (Sweden) – This study can answer the question of whether there is ongoing inflammation in the brains of people with progressive MS, and whether rituximab has potential as a treatment for progression.

Biomarkers of progression:

  • Dr Charlotte Teunissen, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam (Netherlands) – This study aims to identify reliable biomarkers that would greatly increase the ability to determine the best therapy for an individual, and offer clues to the underlying causes of MS progression.
  • Professor Xavier Montalban, Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (Spain) – This project may not only reveal useful biomarkers, but also help to identify the molecular mechanisms that operate during progressive phases of MS and which might be blocked by therapies to stop progression

Gene studies:

  • Professor Tomas Olsson, Karolinska Institute (Sweden) – This study could pave the way for new therapeutic strategies, and help define lifestyle and environmental factors that may provide clues to preventing or stopping MS.
  • Dr Sergio Baranzini, University of California-San Francisco (United States) – This project endeavors to enable better understanding of how and why MS progresses in certain people, it would then enable doctors to give more accurate prognoses to individuals, inform treatment decisions, and help stop progression in its tracks.
  • Professor Stephen Sawcer, The International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium (UK) – This consortium could provide a means to identify the key biological processes determining progression in MS, and point the way to selecting rational targets for therapy development.

Rehabilitation trials:

  • Dr Nancy Chiaravalloti, Kessler Foundation Research Center (United States) – The results from this study may have a significant impact on addressing the troubling symptom of cognitive dysfunction and improving quality of life for people with progressive MS
  • Dr Jonathan Marsden, Plymouth University (United Kingdom) – This study could lead to the further testing of a strategy to reduce ataxia in people with MS, potentially providing a solution that improves their daily lives.

Underlying pathology of progression:

  • Associate Professor Francisco Quintana, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (United States) – This study may point to a new strategy for stopping a key contributor to MS progression and could expedite miglustat’s application to MS if it indeed proves safe and effective.
  • Professor Sandra Amor, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam (Netherlands) – This study aims to understand the impact of age on inflammation and repair may help to identify new avenues to counteract age-induced changes and prevent them from causing MS to progress.
  • Associate Professor Jack van Horssen, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam (Netherlands) – This project will significantly contribute to our understanding of mechanisms underlying progressive MS, and provide a potential basis for the development of new therapeutics to stop neurodegeneration and progression.
  • Dr David Haegert, McGill University (Canada) – This study aims to find a biomarker that can be tested in blood samples of people with MS could help predict the rate of disease progression and help determine the most appropriate therapy.
  • Dr Steven Petratos, Monash University (Australia) – This study may yield a new strategy for developing a therapy that limits damage to nerve cells and stops the progression of MS.
  • Dr Don Mahad, University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom) – If this research verifies a crucial role for damaged mitochondria in MS progression, it may identify new approaches to protecting nerve cells from harm to stop or prevent progression.
  • Dr Massimiliano Calabrese, University of Verona (Italy) – This study may identify both the molecules and brain imaging signals that predict a more severe disease, so that neurologists can recognize and address a more severe course of MS before quality of life is severely affected.
  • Dr David Pitt, Yale University (United States) – This study will test if some people are genetically predisposed to sensitivity from glutamate, this subset of individuals may benefit from therapies that address excessive glutamate to slow or stop disease progression.

Developing new disease models:

  • Dr Robin Avila, Renovo Neural Inc. (United States) – This study is developing a model for testing whether therapies can stop MS progression is a critical step in bringing these strategies from the laboratory to the clinic where they can end progression in people with MS.
  • Professor Raymond Sobel, Stanford University (United States) – This study will investigate if susceptibility to MS is due at least in part to exposure to a dietary component early in life, this will suggest ways to prevent and perhaps treat MS.

About the Alliance:

The Progressive MS Alliance is an unprecedented international initiative that is connecting resources and experts around the world to find answers and develop solutions to end progressive MS. The goal of the Alliance is to speed the development of new treatments for progressive MS by funding the best research, wherever it exists. The Alliance is led with management from MS organisations in the United States, Canada, Italy, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the MS International Federation, and expanding financial and resource support from these and other organisations, including the MS Societies of Denmark and Spain.

Learn more at


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Finding the answers for Progressive MS