The history of MS research

The £227 million we've invested in research has helped lead to significant progress in our understanding and treatment of MS.

Find out how far we've come, and why we're closer than ever to stopping MS.

1953 - The MS Society is born

In 1953, our founders Richard and Mary Cave are frustrated at the lack of treatments and support available for Mary's MS. So they decide to do something about it. They set up their first meeting in West London, a small number of people attend and the MS Society is born.

1960s - Research into bladder issues and first trial of steroids for relapses

In the 1960s we fund the first ever large trial of a steroid treatment to help with relapses. We also begin supporting research into bladder problems in people with MS.

1983 - We invest in the first MRI scanner for MS

In 1983 we invest £1 million in the first MRI scanner in the world to be solely dedicated to MS research. The scanner changes the way MS is diagnosed.

1998 - MS Society Tissue Bank founded

In 1998 we open our world-leading tissue bank. It uses donated tissue to help scientists across the globe better understand MS - and find new treatments. It's provided tens of thousands of tissue samples to hundreds of research projects since its launch.

2001 - Guidelines on MS diagnosis developed

In 2001 we support Professor Ian McDonald to develop the McDonald Diagnostic Criteria. It revolutionises the way we diagnose and categorise MS.

2003 - We set up our Research Network

Our Research Network is a group of over 200 people affected by MS who help shape our research programme. They make sure all the research we fund reflects the needs and interests of people living with MS.

2005 - We open the MS Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair

Our Cambridge centre is a world-class research hub where scientists work to understand more about myelin and find new MS treatments.

2007 - We open the MS Society Edinburgh Centre for MS Research

Our Edinburgh centre works to speed up the development of treatments for MS. Working with our Cambridge centre, researchers study the causes and mechanisms behind progressive MS - and investigate new ways to slow or stop progression.

2010 - Breakthrough in myelin repair research

Research we fund shows for the first time that damaged myelin can be repaired by stem cells.

2011 - We launch the UK MS Register

The UK MS Register is the world’s first register to combine real life information from people with MS with clinical and NHS data. The Register provides crucial information to researchers and helps build a clearer understanding of the impact of MS on people’s lives.

2011 - We help set up the International Progressive MS Alliance

We’re a proud member of the International Progressive MS Alliance. It's a network of MS charities from around the world, working together to speed up the development of treatments for progressive MS.

2012 - Botox is licensed to treat overactive bladder in MS

We funded the early clinical trials into Botox - a lifechanging treatment for bladder problems in MS.

2012 - We recruit our Stop MS steering group

The steering group develop our vision to make MS history.

We work with our steering group, Appeal Board members and Pioneers to raise money through fantastic events like our St Paul's Carol Concert and Jacqueline du Pré Tribute Concerts.

2014 - MS-STAT results

A clinical trial shows simvastatin can slow the rate of brain shrinkage in people with secondary progressive MS.

2017 - MS-STAT2 begins

We co-fund a study to confirm if simvastatin can slow or stop disability progression for people with secondary progressive MS. The trial will run until 2023 and involve 1,180 people across the UK.

2017 - Myelin repair treatment in first UK clinical trial

Our Cambridge and Edinburgh centres find that the molecule RXR gamma promotes myelin repair in animals. Bexarotene (a cancer drug) increases this molecule in the brains of people. It’s now being tested in a phase 2 clinical trial to see if it promotes myelin repair in people with MS.

2018 - MS-SMART results announced

We test 3 repurposed drugs to see if they can protect nerves from damage in secondary progressive MS. The results tell us a lot about the biological pathways in progressive MS, helping researchers rule out and prioritise other drugs for future trials.

2019 - We fund a new study into vitamin D and MS

This project which will see if vitamin D levels are different in people with MS, and identify any factors that could affect these levels. We hope results of this project will inform any future trial testing whether vitamin D supplements could be an effective treatment for MS.

2019 - Ocrelizumab approved by NICE

In May 2019, after originally rejecting it, NICE approve the use of ocrelizumab for people with early primary progressive MS on the NHS. 

2019 - DELIVER-MS – determining the best therapy option for early MS

There’s current uncertainty on the best way to treat MS. This trial will test if using early intensive therapies leads to more favourable outcomes than using less intensive first line therapies.

2019 - Bexarotene trial results

The drug bexarotene was tested in a Phase 2 clinical trial to see if it repairs myelin in people with MS. Whilst results showed bexarotene did show some effects on boosting myelin repair, unfortunately side effects experienced by participants mean this treatment isn't being taken forwards. Learnings from the trial are now being taken forward in a new trial testing a combination of two existing treatments. 

2020 - We start setting up our clinical trials platform, Octopus

Octopus will speed up the development of treatments that can slow, and ultimately stop, MS. It will act as a mega-trial, joining up centres around the UK to test many different treatments at the same time. This has never been done before in MS.

2025 - MS-STAT2 results will be announced

If the MS-STAT2 trial is successful, simvastatin could be one of the first treatments licensed for secondary progressive MS in the UK.