The Multiple Sclerosis Discovery Forum (MSDF) is an online resource that aims to accelerate progress toward cures for multiple sclerosis and related disorders by sparking new ideas and catalyzing unforeseen connections. The site focuses attention on what is known and not yet known about the causes of these conditions, their pathological mechanisms, and potential ways to intervene. By communicating this information in a way that builds bridges among different disciplines, we will open new routes toward significant clinical advances.
MSDF is a joint project of the Accelerated Cure Project for MS (ACP), which creates the site’s content and directs its outreach activities; the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease (MIND), which developed and supports the site's platform; and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, which curates MSGene.
Investigators face a daunting task as they strive to run their research programs while keeping up with key discoveries in their own area of expertise, never mind other disciplines. Even vaster rifts often exist among the worlds of basic, clinical, and applied research. Furthermore, useful information is scattered in scores of publications rather than consolidated in a single, central location; conversations that begin at scientific conferences often stall after participants go home—and their content is not accessible to the larger community; and novel ideas get buried under scads of papers that explore the hypothesis of the moment. This situation generates bottlenecks toward progress, a state of affairs that demands attention if the community is going to effectively tackle multiple sclerosis, a devastating illness that affects more than 400,000 people in the United States and 2 million individuals worldwide, and other demyelinating disorders of the central nervous system. Some of these related conditions affect far fewer people, but are similarly destructive and their misdiagnosis as multiple sclerosis can lead to inappropriate and even harmful therapeutic choices.
MSDF aspires to address these challenges and thus facilitate researchers’ abilities to conceive and execute well-informed, innovative, and feasible experimental tactics. We anticipate that improving the efficiency with which investigators operate and fostering fresh lines of inquiry will help lead to safe and effective ways to prevent, treat, and cure multiple sclerosis, neuromyelitis optica, transverse myelitis, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, and optic neuritis.
The site was created with several key features in mind. MSDF aims to:
- Foster communication and collaboration, especially among people in different disciplines who would benefit from knowing about one another’s work, but who do not encounter it in their normal activities.
- Stimulate investigators who perform relevant basic research to think in a more applied way.
- Provide information about potential clinical implications of basic-research findings.
- Consolidate information about potential drug targets and drug development for easy reference.
- Offer easy access to information about genes that have been implicated in the disease.
- Educate the research community about the availability and utility of MS-related tissue repositories.
- Provide a neutral venue that does not push the agenda of any particular researcher or institution.
- Organize and disseminate tools and resources that enhance the efficiency of research and inspire fresh and fruitful approaches.
- Facilitate access to and encourage commentary on relevant scientific literature.
- Offer tools that enhance the professional development of researchers in the field.
- Partner with other organizations to deliver novel opportunities to members of the research community.