- The Federal Budget has allocated a record $18 million from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to support MS research.
- This will provide access to clinical trials and accelerate the availability of effective therapeutics for the treatment of the Epstein Barr Virus infection, as well as improve our understanding of viral infections in individuals to help reduce the severity and prevalence of MS.
- This funding is in addition to a $4 million grant opportunity announced in December for a clinical trial that tests nerve repair and protection therapeutics for MS.
In incredibly exciting news, it was announced last night that a record $18 million has been allocated from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to support MS research as part of the 2022-2023 budget. This funding will provide access to clinical trials and accelerate the availability of effective therapeutics for the treatment of the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) infection, which is a risk factor of MS. Additionally, the funding will improve our understanding of how immune responses to viruses vary across individuals to inform disease prediction and treatment pathways to ultimately reduce the prevalence and severity of MS and post-viral diseases.
“This is a welcome commitment with a focus on clinical trials and developing therapeutics for the Epstein Barr Virus,” said MS Australia Chair, Associate Professor Des Graham.
This grant allocation comes on top of a $4 million grant opportunity announced in December for a clinical trial that tests nerve repair and protection therapeutics for MS, making a total allocation of $22 million in the past four months. These grant allocations have come at a critical pivot point; while the last 15 years have seen development of treatments that slow disease progression in people with relapsing remitting MS, we are yet to successfully repair and regenerate the damaged nerves in progressive forms of MS.
EBV has long been implicated in the development of many autoimmune conditions, including MS. While 80-90% of the general population have been exposed to EBV with most people not experiencing any specific symptoms, 100% of people with MS are thought to have been infected. This suggests that EBV is necessary, but not enough, for the development of the disease and other risk factors, such as genetic risk factors, are also known to contribute to the development of MS.
Research released by Harvard University earlier this year found that in a large cohort of 10 million people in the US military, the overall risk of MS increased 32-fold after infection with EBV. The researchers found no increase in the risk of MS after infection with other viruses, and the magnitude of this increase in risk in such a large cohort suggests that EBV is an important factor in the development of MS.
It is likely that the disease mechanisms underlying MS begin several years before the onset of symptoms. This study also identified that a marker of nerve damage in the blood, appeared before symptoms began in people that went on to have MS. However, the research team found that this marker only increased after EBV infection, consistent with a causal role for EBV in nerve damage in MS.
MS Australia and MS Queensland fund research focusing on adoptive T-cell immunotherapy which targets EBV and is now in clinical trials for progressive forms of MS.
MS Australia has provided a response to the Federal Budget 2022-2023 and its impact on the MS community.