Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada


$7+ million MS Progression Cohort to change the face of MS in Canada

  • National News Release

MS Society of Canada, Biogen Canada, and Brain Canada partner to support the first Canadian cohort that will study the progression of multiple sclerosis over time

March 28, 2017 – Toronto, ON –
The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Biogen Canada, and Brain Canada announced the launch of a $7+ million call for research proposals that will invite researchers to establish a Canadian cohort of people living with MS to study progression in the disease. Development of the MS Progression Cohort will serve as a unique pan-Canadian opportunity to answer the critical question of why some people with MS progress and others do not, and to pinpoint the exact triggers of progression and establish tools that can detect and monitor those triggers. In addition, the impact of the disease and treatments on individuals as well as the impacts on the Canadian healthcare system will be researched.

“This MS progression study is the first of its kind in Canada, and will be carried out across the country under the leadership of a multidisciplinary team of scientific experts and health professionals in the MS field. The results of this study could impact how we treat and diagnose MS–and ultimately answer so many of the questions people living with MS have about their disease and its progression,” says Yves Savoie, president and CEO, MS Society of Canada.

Progression – or the steady worsening of disease and increase in disability – is a challenging reality faced by all people affected by MS, and despite major advances in MS research, the mechanism of progression and the ways in which researchers and clinicians can track progression are still not fully understood. The Canadian MS Progression Cohort can have significant implications on how those living with MS manage and understand their illness from diagnoses and throughout the various stages of the disease. This study will look at progression from the biological, physical, and socioeconomic perspectives, and will meaningfully engage people living with MS so that their individual experiences are captured. Ultimately, the goal of the cohort is to connect biological findings with real world and clinical findings to create a comprehensive picture of progression in MS, with the hope that researchers will better understand the unpredictable nature of MS and find a cure.

“Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis can be daunting. Symptoms are inconsistent and finding ways to manage the disease can be tricky. A study like this could mean an end to the guessing game,” says Chantal Milne, who was diagnosed with MS in 2012. “I want to be the mom who is able to play with my daughter on the floor, for years to come. It brings me comfort to know that time and energy is being spent on research that will not only benefit me, but also future generations including my daughter’s.”

“Biogen Canada is thrilled to partner with both the MS Society of Canada and Brain Canada on such an innovative and unique pan-Canadian research study for Canadians and MS. We recognize that this novel multistakeholder partnership demonstrates our collective commitment to the MS community here in Canada,” says Lisa Hickey, vice president, managing director, Biogen Canada. “A study of this magnitude will dramatically change the landscape about what we know about MS and MS progression.”

"Brain Canada is proud to partner on this innovative grant that not only supports the development of a shared data platform, but also guides its use to address specific research questions. This will strengthen the capacity of Canadian researchers who are working in the area of MS, and serve as a resource and model for research on other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and Huntington’s, which have some common underlying mechanisms," says Inez Jabalpurwala, president and CEO, Brain Canada.

Each funding partner is contributing more than $2 million to the project. The MS Society is grateful to lead donors, PCL Construction and Bennett Jones LLP for their generous support at $1.25 million and $1 million, respectively, as well as to several individuals who made significant contributions. Funding partner Brain Canada receives financial support from Health Canada through the Canada Brain Research Fund.

Interested applicants are invited to submit a letter of intent to seek a planning grant that will enable them to appropriately plan and develop their full application. The total funding available for the planning grant is up to $250,000. If more than one team is invited to the full application stage, they will share the planning grant. More information can found on the MS Progression Cohort webpage.


About MS and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Canada has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis in the world. MS is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system comprising the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. It is one of the most common neurological diseases affecting young adults in Canada. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40, and the unpredictable effects of MS last for the rest of their lives. The MS Society provides services to people with MS and their families and funds research to find the cause and cure for this disease. Please visit or call 1-800-268-7582 to make a donation or for more information.

Join the conversation and connect with the MS community online. Find the MS Society on Twitter, Instagram or like our page on Facebook.

About Biogen Canada

Biogen Canada is the Canadian affiliate of Biogen. Through cutting-edge science and medicine, Biogen discovers, develops, and delivers worldwide innovative therapies for therapies for people living with serious neurological and neurodegenerative diseases. Founded in 1978, Biogen is a pioneer in biotechnology and today the Company has the leading portfolio of medicines to treat multiple sclerosis, has introduced the first and only approved treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, and is at the forefront of neurology research for conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Building on its heritage in biologics, Biogen also manufactures and commercializes high-quality biosimilars. For more information, please visit

About Brain Canada and the Canada Brain Research Fund

Brain Canada is a national non-profit organization headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, that enables and supports transformative, original and outstanding brain research in Canada. For nearly 20 years, Brain Canada has made the case for the brain as a single, complex system with commonalities across the range of neurological disorders, mental illnesses and addictions, brain and spinal cord injuries. Looking at the brain as one system has underscored the need for increased collaboration across disciplines and institutions, and a smarter way to invest in brain research that is focused on outcomes that will benefit people with lived experience and families. Brain Canada’s vision is to understand the brain, in health and illness, to improve lives and achieve societal impact.

The Canada Brain Research Fund is a public-private partnership established between Brain Canada and Health Canada to encourage Canadians to increase their support of brain research, and maximize the impact and efficiency of those investments. Brain Canada is raising $120 million from private and non-federal sources, which is being matched by the Government of Canada on a 1:1 basis. The Fund supports “the very best Canadian neuroscience, fostering collaborative research and accelerating the pace of discovery, in order to improve the health and quality of life of Canadians who suffer from brain disorders.”

For more information:

Media contacts:

Jennifer Asselin
MS Society of Canada
416-922-6065 ext. 3144

Katarina Stojkovic
Brain Canada
514-989-2989 ext. 110

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