Preventing damage in multiple sclerosis

A partnership between UCL and University of Hertfordshire researchers is targeting the commercialisation of a novel treatment for this debilitating neurological disease.

Partner: University College London

Research challenge

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition that causes a wide range of symptoms, including problems with muscle control, balance and vision. In MS, the immune system is involved in attacking the layer that protects nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord, known as the myelin sheath. Through an inflammatory process called demyelination, the myelin layer becomes is partly removed, giving rise to lesions that can disrupt nerve signals and result in neurodegeneration.

There is currently no cure for MS; treatment seeks to reduce the inflammatory damage. University of Hertfordshire researchers led by Dr Mahmoud Iravani have invented, and patented, a novel group of arylalkylpiperazines - a class of molecular compounds – that have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers believe these compounds could prove highly effective in preventing neuroinflammation caused by MS and halting progression of the disease.

Benefits of collaboration

UCL researchers have developed a novel computational disease model that mimics demyelination. Investigators at UCL’s Institute of Neurology successfully applied to the Therapy Accelerator Fund to test the efficacy of the University of Hertfordshire’s compounds in order to develop a full understanding of their therapeutic potential.

This next stage of the research cycle relies on a combination of UCL’s world-leading track record in the development of experimental MS disease models and University of Hertfordshire’s expertise in drug development and medicinal chemistry. Without the Therapy Accelerator facilitating this collaboration, funding for further study would likely prove elusive because the project is too applied for research council funding and at a premature stage for commercial exploitation.

“The success of this project depends upon a close partnership between University of Hertfordshire and UCL, and without the Therapy Accelerator this exciting collaboration would not be possible.”

– Professor Mahmoud Iravani, University of Hertfordshire.

Potential impact

The UCL research group has experience of advancing novel therapies in the laboratory to testing in clinical trials. Success in the experiments proposed through the Therapy Accelerator project would recommend the use of the University of Hertfordshire compounds in patients with relapsing-remitting MS. If follow-on studies were to demonstrate the value of the compounds in preventing demyelination, it could also open up the possibility of using them to treat patients with primary or secondary progressive MS.

Research-active SMEs or academic institutions interested in discussing collaborative research and innovation opportunities in life sciences should contact or call +44 (0) 1707 286406.