The European Commission is awarding 15 million euros to support MultipleMS, a large global project designed to develop new personalized medicine approaches for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.
The funds, equal to about $15.2 million, will be provided through the agency’s Horizon2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. The program, the European Union’s largest research effort geared toward bringing discoveries to the market, started in 2014.
Twenty-one universities and companies from Europe and the United States are involved in MultipleMS, and the consortium is being led by the Karolinska Institute (KI) in Stockholm.
Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany is the project’s second largest partner, which is receiving about 2 million euros ($2.1 million) to coordinate and support its work.
The MultipleMS project will involve analyzing evidence-based clinical, biological, and lifestyle features to help doctors predict the clinical course of the disease; classifying patients based on their risk; and predicting the therapeutic response to existing disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) in a real-world setting.
Another goal is gaining in-depth knowledge of distinct pathogenic pathways to help identify targets for new treatments.
“What is truly unique about this project is the scale of the partnership and the huge amount and different kinds of patient data that will be combined. Our novel approach is to take the multifaceted nature of MS as the starting point for identifying personalized treatment opportunities in MS,” Professor Ingrid Kockum of KI, the project’s coordinator, said in a news release.
MultipleMS will build on the foundations and research networks laid out by earlier partnerships, including the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium (IMSGC), the Nordic MS genetics network, and the International Human Epigenome Consortium (IHEC).
Publicly available, large-scale biological data, including high-resolution maps of immune cells, and biological data from MS patients, will be used to strengthen the identification of biological pathways associated with the disease within different patient populations.
“The project will combine a variety of data, such as clinical, genetic, epigenetic, molecular, MRI, and lifestyle data from more than 50,000 MS patients and 30,000 healthy individuals to elucidate differential disease characteristics in patients,” Kockum said.
In parallel with the data analysis, researchers will conduct an observational study of newly diagnosed patients, prioritize novel therapeutic targets, and initiate a drug development program.
At TUM, the study is being coordinated by researchers led by Professor Bernhard Hemmer, director of the neurology clinic at the TUM’s Hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar. Last summer, Hemmer and colleagues identified four new risk genes associated with MS. Other research teams are looking into the role of pathogenic T-cells in the onset of MS, and the processes that damage nerve cells.
More information on the consortium is available at www.multiplems.eu.