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Isabel Amo, Marco Pugliese, Vicens Oliver, Silvia Cóppulo, Boi Ruiz, Albert Saiz and Isidre Ferrer (Photo: UIC).

Research on multiple sclerosis in Spain, high-quality but little translational

Research in multiple sclerosis (MS) in Spain is not very translational, with little practical application in addressing clinical processes.  Although its quality and competitiveness are recognized, it has insufficient public funding, and this conveys a great instability of the working groups. These are the main results of the survey “The situation of research on multiple sclerosis in Spain from the perspective of researchers and health professionals”, conducted by the International University of Catalonia (UIC Barcelona) and promoted by GAEM Foundation, based in the Barcelona Science Park.

The results have been presented today in Barcelona, ​​with the participation of Drs. Albert Saiz, head of the Neuroimmunology and MS Unit of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, ​​and Isidre Ferrer, researcher and coordinator of the Neuropathology group CIBERNED (Instituto Carlos III). The event was also attended by Isabel Amo (International University of Catalonia, UIC), Marco Pugliese (director of the GAEM Foundation), Vicens Oliver (president of the GAEM Foundation), Silvia Cóppulo (journalist and moderator of the presentation) and Boi Ruiz (director of the Chair of Health Management and Health Policies at UIC Barcelona).

“The results of the survey are very useful and show a broad coincidence in the weaknesses that affect research on multiple sclerosis in Spain, as well as in the lines of action that would strengthen it,” says Boi Ruiz, director of the Chair of Health Management and Health Policies at UIC Barcelona.

The survey was conducted between July and October 2020, through a semi-structured interview within a representative group of professional neurologists, specialists and researchers in the study of MS, mostly from centers located in Madrid and Catalonia. Here is their visión of MS research in Spain:

• It is predominantly clinical or focused on the immunopathological aspect
•  It is little translational and little focused on improving the conditions of patients
•  Preclinical research is in the background and is confined to a limited number of working groups.
•  It has quality and competitiveness, despite multiple limitations, such as insufficient funding, or the lack of institutional support and collaboration between centers, which results in a lack of coordination between the working groups and fragmentation of the projects.
•  The main areas of research are the study of neurodegeneration and neuroprotection, biomarkers, and the investigation about regenerative and reparative aspects.

“Increasing funding, improving project management and promoting translational research are the keys to providing Spain with the R&D necessary to face the health challenge posed by MS”, says Dr. Albert Saiz.

The sources of funding for research projects are diverse, the main one is the Instituto de Salud  Carlos III, which has dedicated more than 3.5 million euros between 2014 and 2019 to financing MS-related projects.

According to Vicens Oliver, president of the GAEM Foundation, a patient organization whose purpose is to promote research: “Patient associations and foundations have an essential role in the development of research; on the one hand, we know the needs that must be covered; on the other, we must take advantage of our great potential for social recognition and push to include a greater financial and resource investment on the agenda of governments and research agencies.”

» For further information: GAEM Foundation website [+]