£1.2 million has been invested in a global effort to stop multiple sclerosis on World MS Day 2021

New multiple sclerosis projects – including three pioneering studies in the UK – are set to have £1.2 million invested as part of a global effort to stop the disease.

Announced today (30 May 2021) on World MS Day, the International Progressive MS Alliance (Alliance) will share the funds between researchers around the world through 19 Research Challenge Awards.

More than 130,000 people in the UK and 2.8 million worldwide live with MS,” explains Dr Clare Walton, head of research at the MS Society – a funding Alliance member.


“Thanks to research, we already have over a dozen licensed treatments for people with the relapsing form of MS, and some emerging for early active progressive MS. But too many people still don’t have any treatment to help them

“We believe we can stop MS. And by finding out what drives MS progression, these projects will bring us one step closer to finding treatments for everyone.”

Following a worldwide call for proposals, the Alliance has announced it will fund 19 new research projects dedicated to discovering what causes MS progression. 

The selected research projects will each be awarded up to £65,000 to complete their work.


Each winning project shares a united goal of discovering what causes MS to progress. 

By developing a clear understanding of what leads to MS progression, it is hoped this funding will speed up the development of much-needed new treatments for the condition.

Professor David Baker, from Queen Mary University of London, is one of three UK researchers who have been awarded funding. 

His innovative project will explore how to protect nerve cells from becoming dangerously over-excited. Over-excited nerve cells can die, and nerve cell death plays a big part in MS progression.

“We’ve developed a chemical that we believe can help calm over-excited cells and protect them from exhaustion,” explains Professor Baker. 

“Based on a chemical our bodies make naturally, it can enhance a gate-like mechanism, which allows certain charged particles to exit the nerve cell. This prevents the build-up of excitability which can be dangerous, and lead to nerve cell death.

“If we can use our new chemical to control this function without affecting other cellular processes – therefore causing negative side-effects – and protect nerve cells from death in the process, it could be a complete game changer for MS treatment.”


At University College London (UCL), Professor Ken Smith will explore when the fatal injury that leads to nerve cell death in progressive MS happens. His team will explore whether targeting oxygen shortage in the inflamed nervous system affects the subsequent accumulation of disability.

In addition to three UK projects, scientists in the USA, Italy, Australia, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland and France will also be awarded funding. 

Among some of the most exciting international projects are Professor Francesco Bifari’s work in Italy, which will test whether particular nutritional supplements in mouse models of progressive MS can increase cellular energy and mitochondria function in nerve and immune cells. 

And in Germany, Professor Ludovico Cantuti-Castelvetri will be exploring whether a new antibody can help to clear damaged myelin out of the brain, and in turn slow brain damage.

On World MS Day, with a theme of Connections, it is fantastic to see so many medical professionals coming together to help eradicate MS.

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