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Global partnership for multiple sclerosis launched


A global partnership called ‘MultipleMS’, coordinated by Karolinska Institute, 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, universities and companies across 12 European countries and the US will unite efforts to tailor the development and application of therapies to the individual MS patient.

“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 Karolinska Institutet, 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 said.

In parallel with the integration of the collectively available data, a sample of newly diagnosed patients will be followed longitudinally, resulting in a harmonized cohort to verify the lead findings. Based on this integrated information, the aim is that both existing and new treatments can be personalized based on characteristics and biomarkers in individual patients.

The Institute for Molecular Medicine in Finland, FIMM, will coordinate the building of the largest today, harmonized, multi-dimensional data repository for MS. This includes recording the existing data types, collecting the data, developing novel methods for data harmonization, and establishing a bioinformatics portal for secure and efficient data sharing between the partners.

“Variety of the data collected, ranging from questionnaires to MRI image files, makes this data management task challenging. A successful realization is, however, crucial for the scientific goals of the project,” commented Research Director Janna Saarela from FIMM, coordinator of this work package.


Photo of Janna Saarela and her team at FIMM