A large global new partnership called 'MultipleMS', coordinated by Karolinska Institute in Sweden, has been awarded 15 million euro from the European Commission in the Horizon2020 program to find novel and better treatments for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In this project, 21 universities and companies from Europe and the USA will unite efforts to tailor the development and application of therapies to the individual MS patient.
The Technical University of Munich (TUM) is the only institute from Germany to be involved and the project’s second largest partner with funding of two million euro. MS is an immune-mediated disease and a leading cause of non-traumatic disability in young adults in Europe, affecting over 2 million persons worldwide.
MS is a highly heterogeneous disease and a cure for MS is not yet available. As the result of current treatments varies strongly from patient to patient, predicting the specific beneficial treatment for each patient would improve disease management.
"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 personalised treatment opportunities in MS," Professor Ingrid Kockum of KI, coordinator of the project, stated.
The project builds on the foundations and research networks laid out by earlier consortia such as the Nordic MS genetics network, the International MS Genetics Consortium (IMSGC) and International Human Epigenome Consortium (IHEC).
"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 says.
In parallel with the integration of the collectively available data, a sample of newly diagnosed patients will be followed longitudinally, resulting in a harmonised cohort to verify the lead findings. Based on this integrated information, the aim is that both existing and new treatments can be personalised based on characteristics and biomarkers in individual patients.
The validation study is being organised by scientists and researchers from the TUM. Professor Bernhard Hemmer, Director of the Neurology Clinic at the TUM’s Hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar, is head of this sub-project and represented the TUM in the planning phase. "We are proud to be able to play a key role in such an important international project," explains Hemmer.
Neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis are one of the four main research focuses at the Faculty of Medicine. In this context, in the summer of 2016, a team led by Hemmer was able to identify four new risk genes associated with multiple sclerosis in Germany.
Other research groups are examining, for example, the role of pathogenic T cells in the emergence of MS or the processes as nerve cells begin to get damaged. More than 1000 MS patients are cared for annually at the University Hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar.
A research center, in close proximity to the hospital, is currently being set up which will host the various research groups dealing with the topic of MS. With fundamental research and clinical research conducted under the same roof, it is expected that new findings will be put into practice especially quickly as a result.
This large project is possible thanks to the support of the Klaus Tschira Foundation which was established by the physicist Klaus Tschira. The foundation has given 20 million euro for the construction of the center and has made another five million available for research.