July 3, 2011

A positive outcome from the CCSVI urgency?

Good news today from the worlds of MS research. As a doubter of the CCSVI hypothesis (but still interested in hearing about it, as aren't we all!), I was excited to see that research in other areas is stepping up as well. An evil drug company is collaborating with the UK National MS Society to work on research that focuses on neurprotection and repair, two areas I find most valuable. And fascinating. And perhaps globally useful for other forms of brain damage...

The funding is for innovative research, and given to universities and non-profits as well as a separate fund for for-profit agencies focused on making medications that will give money.  The innovations in research funding is the sort of program that allows university researchers to explore new realms and perhaps come up with results that answer more than the initial question.

I'm also interested to hear about the areas of research - while they are looking at the causes of the inflammation occurring in MS, they also seem further ahead than I knew.  I didn't know we had knowledge of the ion channel changes or the sodium/calcium exchanger roles in MS. Fascinating stuff, if you like the biochemistry side of things, and a real source of hope if they can fix these cellular changes. Who knows if CCSVI helps these changes occur, but since the procedure seems to be limited in its effect, and require re-treatment, wouldn't it be nice if we could treat the outcomes, biochemically, of whatever changes are going on in the brain, whether infectious or not?

I dunno, but I am encouraged there is progress going on in all sorts of areas of MS research and that everything, from the large interventions to the tiny ones, is being examined. Maybe all the press about CCSVI helped, though this collaboration was created before Dr. Zamboni's study was released. Let's hope all the noise leads to increased and improved research in all areas of MS. (Bolding is mine)


Merck Serono and Fast Forward Announce Recipients of Funding for Multiple Sclerosis Research

GENEVAJune 30, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --

  • Merck Serono and Fast Forward Provide Funding of Over $1 Million to Accelerate Early Stage Research in Multiple Sclerosis
Merck Serono, a division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Fast Forward, LLC, a not-for-profit organization established by the American National Multiple Sclerosis Society, today announced the second group of recipients to receive funding through their collaboration, which is designed to speed research advances in mutually selected, high potential areas of multiple sclerosis (MS) research.  
The awards total over $1million and will be distributed from two funds created by Merck Serono and Fast Forward to encourage early stage drug discovery for MS: the Accelerating Commercial Development Fund which is allocated to development programs for for-profit entities and the Accelerating Innovation Fund which is allocated to innovation projects and available to university-based investigators and seed-stage for-profit entities.

Merck Serono and Fast Forward distributed a call for proposals to fund projects focused on central nervous system neuroprotection and/or repair strategies. These priority areas were determined by a joint steering committee comprising Fast Forward staff and representatives from Merck Serono.

The following organizations will receive funding:

Under the Accelerating Innovation Fund:
Howard Florey Institute, Carlton, Victoria, Australia (Project Director - Bevyn Jarrot, Ph.D.) will receive $275,000 over 12 months to advance the development of molecules that target Nav 1.6 ion channels. In MS, there is a change in these ion channels, which contributes to abnormal nerve function. This project will focus on molecules which could potentially prevent this abnormal function, thereby protecting axons from further damage.
The Gladstone Institutes /UCSF (Project Director-Katerina Akassoglou, Ph.D.) will receive $300,000 to conduct testing for the identification of small molecule inhibitors of microglial activation. Microglia are part of the resident immune system in the brain and spinal cord. Activation of microglia in MS is thought to contribute to the inflammation and nerve cell damage associated with MS.  In the funded studies, the investigators will focus on developing novel molecules that have the potential to inhibit the activation of microglia in MS.

Under the Accelerating Commercial Development Fund:
Axxam SpA, Milan, Italy (Project Director -Michela Stucchi, Ph.D.) will receive $430,590 over 18 months to advance the development of small molecules that target the sodium-calcium exchanger NCX1 on axons. NCX1 functioning in reverse mode is thought to cause nerve cell death in MS. Axxam is developing molecules to prevent NCX1 activation and thus prevent axonal injury and ultimately clinical disability in MS.

"We are pleased to announce the 2011 funding recipients who will work to advance exciting early-stage projects in MS," said Dr. Bernhard Kirschbaum, Merck Serono's Head of Global Research and Development. "We are committed to advancing research that has the potential to improve understanding of the disease, and ultimately result in the development of therapies to help people living with multiple sclerosis."

Merck Serono and Fast Forward entered into an initial two-year, worldwide agreement in March 2009, and recently extended the collaboration. As part of the up to $19 million collaborative agreement with Fast Forward, Merck Serono provided the majority of funding for the research awards, with Fast Forward contributing 10 percent of the total financing of the awards disseminated from each of the two funds.

"The potential of multiple sclerosis research currently in progress around the globe holds great promise for improving the quality of life for people living with multiple sclerosis," said Dr. Timothy Coetzee, Chief Research Officer at the American National MS Society and Fast Forward. We are pleased to have the opportunity to advance that promise through the continued collaboration between Fast Forward and Merck Serono. Our commitment to furthering research that will end multiple sclerosis remains steadfast, and we look forward to learning more from the results of these innovative research projects."

Photo from: http://gam3avoice.com/library/?tag=function-of-the-neuromuscular-junction

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