Biopharmaceutical company Merck Serono, a division of Merck, recently awarded a total of €1 million to the five winners of the second annual Grant for Multiple Sclerosis Innovation (GMSI) at MS Boston 2014, the joint meeting of the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in MS (ACTRIMS) and European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS (ECTRIMS), which took place between September 10 and 13 in Boston this year.
“At Merck Serono, we believe that medical research to advance improved care for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis is a very worthy undertaking and deserves our support. We are thrilled to invest in the Grant for Multiple Sclerosis Innovation to further this cause,” said the chief medical officer and head of Global Medical Affaird and Global Drug Safety at Merck Serono, Steven Hildemann.
The grants are aimed at supporting the translational research projects of Dr. Bruno Stankoff, professor of Neurology, Pierre and Marie Curie University, in Paris, France, who is studying a new biomarker in order to determine the level of neuron damage in the early phase of relapsing or primary progressive MS. Research conducted by Drs. Maria Domercq and Carlos Matute from the Achucarro Basque Center for Neuroscience and Department of Neurosciences at Universidad del País Vasco, Spain, which is looking into the role of immune cells in the central nervous system known as microglia in insulating the outer layer of neurons, was also awarded.
Other awards went to Dr. Robert Axtell, an assistant member at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, who has dedicated his studies to examining the importance of inflammation-inducing cell signaling molecules BAFF and APRIL in two different animal models of neuro-inflammation, for both MS and neuromyelitis optic. Additionally, a senior research associate from the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair at the University of Cambridge in the UK, Dr. Su Metcalfe, was awarded for his research on targeted nanotechnology as a way of delivering therapeutic agents to the brain in order to reduce inflammatory auto-immunity and repairing myelin.
Finally, an analysis on immune system alterations of patients with MS and its interference on regulatory T cells function, which normally help dampen the immune response, currently being studied by Dr. Margarita Dominguez-Villar, an associate research scientist of the Department of Neurology at Yale School of Medicine, also received an award. The results of her research may help define a new treatment able to restore MS patients’ ability to block inflammation.
“The second-year recipients of the GMSI will help us to continue accelerating exceptional science that demonstrates the potential to become an innovative medicine or a high-value solution for people living with multiple sclerosis,” chief medical officer and head of Global Medical Affaird and Global Drug Safety at Merck Serono, Steven Hildemann, added. The five winners were chosen from more than 100 proposals, after the launch of the GMSI in October 2012 at the 28th ECTRIMS Congress.