URMC among research institutions to share $12.1 million grant

By WILL ASTOR - 12/19/2012 3:23:27 PM

The University of Rochester Medical Center, Upstate Medical University in Syracuse and SUNY Buffalo’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences are in line to share a $12.1 million grant, Associated Medical Schools of New York officials said Wednesday.

URMC and the Syracuse and Buffalo research institutions are allied in a three-member multiple sclerosis research consortium led by Upstate Medical University. URMC’s share of the grant would come to $5.3 million, medical center spokesman Mark Michaud said.

Recommended by Nirav Shah M.D., state commissioner of health, the state grant would go to move stem cell therapies hoped to halt the disease’s progression—that the MS consortium has been developing—into clinical trials.

The progression of multiple sclerosis, a crippling central nervous system disease affecting some 350,000 U.S. residents, varies unpredictably. Sufferers often see symptoms begin to hit as young adults. Some live for years experiencing virtually no effects or only mild ones, while others see the disease progress more rapidly. Many suffer symptoms episodically with periods of remission and relapse of varying length.

“The (consortium’s) collaborative research efforts…show great promise in preventing the progression of MS,” Shah said.

Michael Cain, vice chairman of Associated Medical Schools of New York and dean of SUNY Buffalo’s medical school, called the Shah’s recommendation to fund the clinical trials “a monumental step forward for New York’s stem cell program.” 

Much of the science behind the consortium’s stem cell project comes out of work done at URMC’s Multiple Sclerosis Center.

While there is now no cure for multiple sclerosis, “Our study may in fact change all of this by preventing disease progression to the secondary stage, while repairing damage already done, and hence bring new hope to people affected by the disease,” said Steven Goldman M.D.

A co-principal investigator of the stem cell study, Goldman is chairman emeritus of URMC’s Department of Neurology and co-director of its Center for Translational Neuromedicine.

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