The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has launched a new and innovative approach to speeding the delivery of drug treatments to people with MS, and the Greater Washington Chapter has committed to raising millions to support it.
Although scientists and clinicians know more about MS than ever before, only six drugs exist to treat it and those therapies don’t work for everyone. Fast Forward is aimed at speeding the delivery of new treatments to people with MS by connecting researchers with breakthrough ideas to people who can turn those ideas into new therapies.
“The theory behind Fast Forward is for the Society to raise $30 million over the next five years to move the next generation of MS therapies to market by identifying the most promising drug discovery research and kick starting it through financial investments,” explains Joe Piper, immediate past chair of the Chapter’s Board of Trustees and a member of the blue-ribbon national committee that created Fast Forward.
While academic research grants will remain an important priority of the Society, money raised for Fast Forward will be a catalyst to motivate entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and pharmaceutical companies to invest in exciting new MS therapy companies.
Extra motivation is necessary because MS affects far fewer people than diseases like cancer or heart disease. That means investors must weigh the high cost of drug development - often upwards of $1 billion - with the financial risks involved when deciding where to channel their resources.
The Society funds more MS research than any other nonprofit organization in the world and has access to the leading MS scientists and clinical experts. It also has long-standing relationships with the biotechnology and pharmaceutical business communities. This unique position enables the Society to connect the people independently working on MS treatments, speeding the movement of discoveries out of the lab and into clinical trials and ultimately leading to new treatments.
Fast Forward funding decisions will be made by an advisory committee comprised of leading MS scientists and experienced business executives who know how to commercialize treatments.
Joe isn’t shy about crediting the Greater Washington Chapter with helping to initiate Fast Forward.
“Our Chapter has had a hand in pushing forward ideas that are progressive and sometimes controversial,” he says. “The MS community here wants the Movement to go a little speedier. Fast Forward can make that happen.”
And, the Chapter puts its money where its ideas are. It has committed to raising $2 million - over and above its existing revenue goals - to dedicate to Fast Forward.