Re-defining innovation in MS—and the power of partnership to get us there

There is a clear need to improve the standard of care for people living with MS. Fostering cross-sector collaboration can bring us one step closer.

When the first MRI pictures of a brain affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) were developed, it revolutionized the diagnosis and management of this disease. In the decades that followed, continued scientific breakthroughs have contributed to the development of high-efficacy treatments and brought about many other changes in the clinical management of MS. However, how disease progression is detected and monitored has remained vastly unchanged.

More than 90,000 Canadians—or one in 400 people across Canada—live with MS, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. As the disease progresses, the nerves may become permanently damaged, disrupting communication between the brain and the rest of the body, which can impair everything from vision and balance to memory and mobility. MS, though, is an unpredictable disease in which the severity and duration of symptoms vary from person to person and evolve as the disease progresses. As a result, this complex condition requires personalized and adaptive treatment strategies based on individual needs and the rate of disease evolution.

Supporting the MS community

Due to current disease progression monitoring limitations, neurologists often react only once relapses and irreversible progression has occurred. “What we need is to bring innovative solutions that improve the standard of care and help detect disease progression earlier so that people living with this debilitating disease can have access to the right treatment at the right time,” says Andrea Marazzi, Country President of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc.

The best way to reach that level of innovation is by harnessing the power of cross-sector collaboration and information sharing. The pandemic showed us just what can be achieved when everyone works together to find solutions to our top healthcare challenges and, given that Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, the stakes are high, so we must work together to deliver the best possible care solutions for this community.

How partnerships drive innovation

In an effort to accelerate the path to solutions and help improve patient outcomes, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. has partnered with Innodem Neurosciences, to study how Eye Movement Biomarkers (EMBs) and Gaze Mapping Biomarkers (GMBs) may support clinicians in analyzing highly sensitive data to monitor and detect subtle changes in disease progression. These non-invasive tests can be done in minutes in a physician’s waiting room—or even by patients at home. Through this partnership, a clinical trial is underway with the goal of giving people living with MS, and their medical teams, a more comprehensive and personalized approach to managing their disease.

“The result would facilitate real-time optimization of treatment strategies for each person’s unique journey with MS,” Marazzi says. “Remote self-testing could also alleviate wait times for appointments and ease pressure on the healthcare system, as well as benefit people living with MS in rural areas, who may not have easy access to a neurologist.”

Not only does self-testing put power back in the hands of people living with MS, it also paves the way for a new approach to how we arrive at healthcare solutions, Marazzi says. When key stakeholders from across different sectors are united, it eliminates internal biases and assumptions while also tapping into diverse knowledge and skill sets. “Partnerships are paramount to accelerating the path to much-needed solutions and to pushing the traditional boundaries of innovation in the Canadian healthcare space,” he adds.

The partnership between Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. and Innodem Neurosciences is only the tip of the iceberg for what is possible in advancing our healthcare system, and we must lean into the opportunities for innovation afforded by cross-sector collaboration.

“Breakthroughs in science and healthcare are never easy and require a change in mindset,” Marazzi says. “And that means valuing new and fresh perspectives, a key benefit achieved through knowledge-sharing and collaboration. Ultimately, we must work together to improve access to the innovation that Canadians deserve.”

MLR ID# 251570

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