The International Progressive MS Alliance, coordinated by the MS International Federation is the most ambitious collaborative project the international MS movement has ever embarked upon. Renowned researchers from multiple disciplines and countries (including Professor Bill Carroll from Australia), will guide the development and implementation of the Alliance’s research priorities and investments.
Dr Matthew Miles, Chief Executive Officer, MS Research Australia, says that ‘working in isolation on an issue such as progressive MS risks duplicating efforts or making only slow progress on promising research which could lead to a breakthrough. This Alliance is aimed at fast-tracking those important discoveries’. MS Research Australia will contribute €765,000 (A$1.1 million) to the Alliance over the next three years.
The Alliance will fund the best global projects that target key challenges in progressive MS research: better understand progression; design shorter, faster trials that measure patient outcomes; conduct trials to test agents; and to develop and evaluate new therapies to manage symptoms.
Impressively the initial call for the International Progressive MS Alliance research projects generated over 195 applications from researchers representing 22 countries – clearly showing the power of a global approach.
Mike Hemingway, a person with MS and the Chairman of the fundraising initiative Foundation 5 Million Plus (F5m+), said ‘The F5m+ funds allocation committee, comprising of people with MS, were unanimous in its endorsement of funding the first year’s subscription to the Alliance on behalf of MS Research Australia. This is such an important project as developments in the area of understanding progressive MS have been slow and, given that many people with MS will end up with a form of progressive MS, it is vital that more priority is given to understanding and treatment.’
When asked about MS Research Australia’s involvement, Professor Alan Thompson, the Chair of the Scientific Review Committee for the Alliance was emphatic. ‘As one of the world’s leading MS organisations, the scientific experience, financial resources and expertise that MS Research Australia can bring to the Alliance will add enormous strength to the initiative’. Professor Thompson, a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, Vice-Dean at University College London and an international authority on MS adds that ‘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.’
‘I’m delighted to hear of this wonderful initiative’, says Stewart MacLennan. ‘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. I’m aware of the work and progress scientists are making internationally, as well as ours here in Australia. 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 as a managing member, with a key role in the Executive Committee which leads all aspects of the Alliance and will contribute technical advice and expertise. MS Research Australia will also continue to fund the best progressive MS research in Australia as has been done over the last decade. This focus on progressive MS is one of the key priorities identified in our Strategic Plan 2014.