International Progressive MS Alliance announces funding of over €4.6 million towards new treatments for progressive MS

21 December 2023

The International Progressive MS Alliance is funding two major initiatives to tackle the pressing demand for new and effective treatments for people living with progressive MS.

The Challenges in Progressive MS Awards aim to build upon promising discoveries from six projects that received exploratory grants in 2021. These grants focused on improving the understanding of the mechanisms that drive progression – an area where knowledge gaps have hindered treatment development.

The Innovations in Wellbeing Awards mark the inception of an extensive research program designed to pinpoint and implement solutions for some of the most challenging symptoms experienced by people living with progressive MS. Nine projects have secured funding in this initial phase.

Challenges in Progressive MS Awards

Seventeen pilot projects received funding in 2021 to understand the mechanisms of MS progression. The International Progressive MS Alliance will now be funding six larger and longer-term Challenges in Progressive MS Awards from those initial 17 projects. These projects will focus on several areas, including new perspectives on nerve cell loss in progressive MS, molecular pathways that promote nerve cell protection and repair, and the testing of potential drugs to slow progression.

The Challenges in Progressive MS Awards are three-year research projects with work initiating in early 2024. The winners are from various locations around the world, including the UK, Canada, Finland, Switzerland, and Australia.

We are proud to announce that Professor Jeannette Lechner-Scott from the University of Newcastle NSW was a recipient of this award. She aims to tackle progression in MS by using a multi-omics approach. This integrated approach involves the analysis of different types of biological data simultaneously. By doing this, it is hoped that she will gain a more complete understanding of how biological components work together to drive progression.

Innovations in Wellbeing Awards

A paper published in 2021 highlighted the insufficient treatment approaches to relieve the severe symptoms experienced by those with progressive MS and improve quality of life. This paper also emphasised the crucial need for increased financial investment in studies that focus on symptom management to achieve progress.

This urgent need to address the challenging symptoms people with progressive MS experience is underscored by Marie Vaillant, a member of the Alliance Scientific Steering Committee and a person living with progressive MS, “Often the hardest part of living with MS are the things that people don’t see. The debilitating fatigue that overwhelms you or the cognitive impairment where you can’t remember the question that your husband just asked you. Having answers to these challenges would be a game-changer in improving the lives of people with MS.”

Following a global call for proposals that resulted in 51 applications across 11 countries, the Alliance has granted nine Innovations in Wellbeing Awards. These awards will fund the first stage of a wellbeing research pipeline to bring together robust expert teams to develop extensive research proposals, a large randomised controlled study (Stage 2) and implementation (Stage 3) of innovative therapeutic interventions or outcomes for progressive MS. The aim is to develop full pipelines for wellbeing therapies for progressive MS that can be integrated into healthcare systems globally.

The winners come from different corners of the world, including the US, Canada, Belgium, Norway, and Australia. The nine projects will focus on symptoms including pain, mobility, impaired cognition, and fatigue. The first phase of the research projects will be initiated in early 2024 and report results in mid-2025.

We are delighted that Associate Professor Anne Bruestle, from the Australian National University ACT, has been funded under this scheme to use a person-centred approach to characterise and measure fatigue in progressive MS.

About 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.

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International Progressive MS Alliance announces funding of over €4.6 million towards new treatments for progressive MS