Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

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Canadian Researcher Wins International Progressive MS Alliance Research Challenge Award Focused on New Insights

  • Announcement

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada is delighted to congratulate the 19 winners of the International Progressive MS Alliance (Alliance) Research Challenge Awards, including Canadian researcher Dr. Jennifer Gommerman.

The recipients were selected following a worldwide call for applications in 2020 that were reviewed by an international panel made up of MS experts and people affected by MS. Representing 13 countries around the world, the award-winning researchers were chosen based on their innovative and collaborative concepts that challenge current approaches used to investigate the mechanisms of progressive MS. The 19 projects will focus on a breadth of areas, ranging from identifying novel insights into axonal loss in progressive MS to molecular pathways that promote neuroprotection and myelin repair.

Dr. Gommerman, a professor of immunology with the University of Toronto, proposed the use of imaging mass cytometry on the progressive MS brain to provide a complete inventory of the components of the innate immune system at sites of neuronal connections. Her team will study neuronal changes that occur in a progressive MS brain and analyze these findings in the context of patient data to understand variations that strongly correlate with clinical disability.

“We’re excited that Dr. Gommerman has been recognized by the international MS community for her inventive approach that uses powerful technology to study how the immune system malfunctions in people with MS,” says Pam Valentine, president and CEO, MS Society of Canada, and executive committee member of the Alliance. “This exciting project has the potential to bear fruit and create targeted treatments down the road that could ultimately slow down or stop disease progression in people living with MS.”

The Research Challenge Awards, which were created by the Alliance in 2014 and total €1,425,000 this year, are designed to expedite the development of therapies for progressive MS and promote institutional collaboration. Researchers will each receive an award of up to €75,000 for one year, with funding to begin later this year and results expected in 2022.

“This research will help us to understand how components of the innate immune system, particularly the complement system, communicate with glial cells in the hippocampus to change neuronal circuits. The ideas were conceived together with Dr. Valeria Ramaglia, a Research Associate in the Gommerman Lab,” says Dr. Gommerman.

See below for a full list of Research Challenge Award Recipients.

Challenge Award Recipients

Martina Absinta – Johns Hopkins University (USA)

Multi-omic predictors of chronic inflammation in multiple sclerosis

Laura Airas – Turku University Hospital (Finland)

Exploring the role of A2A adenosine receptor in the pathogenesis of progressive MS

David Baker – Queen Mary University of London (UK)

A novel route to neuronal and oligodendrocyte protection via targeting of anandamide-sensitive, potassium channels

Francesco Bifari – University of Milan (Italy)

Branched chain amino acids-induced persistent metabolic shift towards oxidative phosphorylation in immune and neural cells: a potential new therapy for Progressive Multiple Sclerosis

Massimiliano Calabrese – University of Verona (Italy)

Detecting the immunological basis of neurodegeneration and microglial activation in early MS patients

Ludovico Cantuti-Castelvetri – Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen (Germany) Lysosomal targeting strategies to enhance remyelination in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis

Alessandro Didonna – University of California, San Francisco (USA)

Tau misfolding and progression in multiple sclerosis

Jessica Fletcher – University of Melbourne (Australia)

Identifying novel phosphorylation events to drive myelin repair

Jeroen Geurts – VU University Medical Center (The Netherlands)

Blistering of the axon-myelin unit as prodromal stage of axonal degeneration in progressive MS: the role of calpain-cathepsin axis

Jennifer Gommerman – University of Toronto (Canada)

Innate immune – Glial cell crosstalk in progressive MS

An Goris – University of Leuven (Belgium)

Early microglial activation contributes to long-term progression in MS

Simon Hametner – Medical University of Vienna (Austria)

Multimodal decoding of CD163 immune cell function in progressive MS

Jeannette Lechner-Scott – John Hunter Hospital (Australia)

Epigenetics of MS progression

David Leppert – University Hospital Basel (Switzerland)

Neurofilament light chain (NfL) turnover in blood circulation in physiological conditions and animal models of MS

Don Mahad – University of Edinburgh (UK)

Understanding the neuronal cell body response to demyelination to protect axons in MS

David Martinelli – University of Connecticut Health Center (USA)

A novel signaling pathway to promote oligodendrocyte maturation leading to a new treatment for multiple sclerosis

Claire McCoy – Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (Ireland)

Unraveling the role of miRNAs, in particular miR-448 in the demyelination process and its potential as a novel therapeutic in primary progressive MS

Kenneth Smith – University College London (UK)

Understanding the molecular pathways involved in protection from secondary progressive disease

Bernard Zalc – ICM, Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle (France)

Microglia and remyelination

About the International Progressive MS Alliance

The Alliance exists to accelerate the development of effective treatments for people with progressive forms of multiple sclerosis to improve quality of life worldwide. It is an unprecedented global collaboration of MS organizations, researchers, health professionals, the pharmaceutical industry, companies, trusts, foundations, donors and people affected by progressive MS, working together to address the unmet needs of people with progressive MS ─ rallying the global community to find solutions. Our promise is more than hope, it is progress.

The MS Society of Canada is a proud managing member of the Alliance.

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