MENLO PARK, Calif. — July 10, 2012 — The Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded SRI International a one-year grant to develop a novel therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune nervous system disease that affects about 400,000 people in the United States and more than two million people worldwide. There is currently no cure for this disorder, which can impair vision and movement.
The grant, funded through DoD's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, will support the development of an oral drug that targets miR-326, a molecule recently found to stimulate the production of immune system mediators known as T-helper 17 (Th17) cells. Patients with MS have high levels of miR-326, and Th17 is thought to play a critical role in causing MS and other autoimmune diseases. The new therapy will inhibit miR-326 and block the production of Th17 cells.
The novel, orally administered drug will be more convenient for patients than currently available treatments. MS treatments today often require frequent hospital visits for injections or intravenous infusions. The new drug could also help patients who do not respond to existing medications, or who experience significant side effects as a result of taking them.
“New and more convenient and effective therapeutics for multiple sclerosis are greatly needed,” said Jennifer Lam, Ph.D., a research scientist in SRI's Biosciences Division who is spearheading the project. “Our research is directed toward the development of a novel oral therapeutic as well as a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to MS.”
The project described was supported by Award Numbers W81XWH-11-1-0736 from the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity. The content of the information does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the Government, and no official endorsement should be inferred