Progressive MS Alliance takes another giant step forward in the search for answers about progressive MS

Last week marked an important milestone in continuing efforts around the world to end progressive MS. By now I’m sure most of you have heard the exciting news from the International Progressive MS Alliance, which awarded 11 grants to collaborating researchers in 6 countries. These grants, dubbed the Planning Awards, are the first step in the Collaborative Network Awards that were envisioned to build bridges between researchers across countries and scientific disciplines, pool their minds and resources, and make significant inroads into our understanding of progressive MS in the search for a cure.


Attendees of the second PMSA Scientific Meeting, including researchers, representatives of member MS Societies and the MS International Federation, and people living with MS

Updated Sept. 23, 2015

The MS Society was a key player throughout the entire process: from establishing the research priority areas for the Alliance, to sending out the call for applications around the world, to narrowing down the list to the final awardees. As I witnessed the applications pour in, I realized that we had a really tough job ahead of us due to the incredible response from the MS research community. At the same time, it was encouraging to see that research into progressive MS is no longer just a footnote in the research landscape as it was only a few short decades ago, and efforts to understand this form of the disease and uncover new therapeutic strategies are ramping up in earnest.

At the end of the day, 52 applications were narrowed down to 11 outstanding research networks that showed the greatest scientific merit and potential for impacting the lives of people affected by progressive MS. These planning grants are the building blocks for the next stage of the Collaborative Network Awards, providing the selected research teams with €50,000 in start-up funds to integrate their operations, build infrastructure for data sharing and knowledge exchange, and develop a shared strategy for the full Collaborative Network Award proposal.

Once they get the ball rolling, each network will have the opportunity to apply to the full Collaborative Network Awards next year as the culmination of their planning efforts. The scope and complexity of these 4-year, €4.2 million collaborative projects will be immense, and is a real testament to the breadth of expertise and resources needed to confront the enormous undertaking of ending progressive MS.

I’m also happy to see that two Canadian principal investigators were chosen to receive planning awards in this round:

  • Dr. Douglas Arnold from McGill University (Montreal) will be leading a research network to develop new imaging biomarkers that can help measure disability progression and effectiveness of drugs in clinical trials for progressive MS. As one of the world’s leading imaging experts in MS, Dr. Arnold will bring his expertise and access to a rich repository of imaging and clinical data to bear on this research endeavour. The outcome of this effort will be shorter and less costly trials that will accelerate the movement of promising therapeutics from the lab to people living with progressive MS.
  • Dr. Anthony Feinstein from Sunnybrook Research Institute (Toronto) is a global authority on cognitive and emotional abnormalities in MS. His grant project focuses on testing specific cognitive rehabilitation and exercise interventions tailored to people living with progressive MS in order to promote improvements in physical and cognitive functioning. The results of this study will have tremendous potential for improving wellbeing and overall quality of life for people living with progressive MS.

Update: Summaries for all of the selected projects are now available on the Progressive MS Alliance website.

This truly was a global undertaking that involved collaboration and the coming together of invaluable resources. I’m looking forward to seeing the efforts of these amazing scientists, along with the crucial contributions from so many people living with MS who participated in the various clinical studies, lead to positive and fruitful steps toward conquering progressive MS.

Do you have any comments or questions about the Progressive MS Alliance or Collaborative Network Awards? Leave them below!

Categories Research

National vice-president, research, past MS researcher, and PhD in Cellular and Molecular Medicine from University of Ottawa. Leads the MS Society's research program to find the cure for MS and improve the quality of life for people affected by the disease.

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