$5 Million Gift Spurs Progressive MS Initiative

“The biggest challenge we face today with multiple sclerosis is the lack of effective treatments for progressive MS, the most debilitating form of the disease,” says Howard L. Weiner, MD, co-director of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Determined to address this challenge, Weiner assembled more than 20 scientists and clinicians to launch the Progressive MS Initiative, a five-year research project aimed at developing new treatments. Reaching across disciplines, his co-principal investigator is renowned immunologist Vijay Kuchroo, DVM, PhD.

When the Water Cove Charitable Foundation learned about the Progressive MS Initiative and its multifaceted approach to better understand and treat the disease, the family foundation gave $5 million to accelerate the initiative’s pioneering work.

“We’re so thankful for this gift because it gives us the ability to not only accelerate our work, but also to open completely new areas of research,” Kuchroo says. “Transformative changes in medicine are only possible with philanthropy.”

Unlike the more common relapsing form of MS, progressive MS continually damages the nervous system with no periods of remission. People with the disease often experience increasing difficulties with cognition, vision, and mobility.

Together, Weiner and Kuchroo are harnessing BWH’s expertise in neurology, immunology, imaging, and other areas to tackle the disease in a more comprehensive way than other studies to date by combining basic research, bioinformatics, imaging technologies, microbiome studies, clinical trials, and insights from the Comprehensive Longitudinal Investigation of MS at BWH (CLIMB) study.

“We’re so thankful for this gift because it gives us the ability to not only accelerate our work, but also to open completely new areas of research.” —Vijay Kuchroo, DVM, PHD

Started in April, the initiative has already targeted clinical trials for potential treatments. One is a nasal vaccine designed to stimulate immune response and slow disease progression.

“This treatment has several advantages—it has minimal, if any, toxicity, can be taken in addition to other treatments, and has shown success in pre-clinical trials,” Weiner says. “We are testing in healthy volunteers this fall, and if all goes well, we’ll test in patients with progressive MS in 2019.”

Weiner and Kuchroo are also thankful the foundation’s generous seed gift is inspiring additional major gifts. So far, the initiative has received $10 million toward a $15 million fundraising goal.

“Using all the unique resources at BWH, we have an opportunity today to develop effective treatments,” says Weiner. “Our team is extremely grateful to the Water Cove Charitable Foundation for embracing our vision to help patients and families affected by progressive MS.”