Promising new MS treatment gets a new life

A promising treatment on the verge of being discarded gets a new life and makes its way into the hands of patients.

Sanjay Arora, MS patient: “This is the PoNS device. I put it on my tongue.”

Called the PoNS – a Portable NeuroModulation Stimulator – the battery powered device delivers an electrical current. The theory is it strengthens nerves, allowing patients, like Sanjay Arora who has MS and struggles with walking, to better control muscles.

Sanjay Arora: “I got this a year ago, and it made an immediate improvement in the pace I was walking at. I think I was at .8 or .9, and after I got this I went up a tenth of a mile.”

He uses it every day during physical therapy and as he exercises on the treadmill.

Sanjay Arora: “In 2007, 2008, I started doing more research and asking friends if they knew of anything else out there.”

Sanjay’s questions led him to Dr Bruce Bloom, president and chief science officer at Cures Within Reach, who put him in touch with the PoNS developers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Sanjay Arora: “I think quite a bit about what a chance meeting this was.”

Sanjay took a chance and tried the device. And at his last doctor’s appointment …

Sanjay Arora: “I was roughly 20 percent better in most measures than I was six months ago.”

But five years ago, the device was about to be shelved. The researchers didn’t have money to launch a clinical trial to prove the stimulator’s effectiveness.

Dr Bruce Bloom, president and chief science officer, Cures Within Reach: “We managed to step in at a critical time when they needed that money. And luckily the project turned out to be hugely successful. And now, five years later, they’ve got millions of dollars in grants and they are working on Parkinson’s, stroke, MS and traumatic brain injury, and hopefully within a year we’ll be on the process of getting this approved for at least one of those diseases.”

And that’s the specialty of Cures Within Reach — a not-for-profit that connects researchers with funds and patients to launch clinical trials that help move promising projects along – ultimately to the FDA for approval.

Dr Bloom: “Our job is to find those projects that are just ready to be tested on patients, there’s good scientific background, good safety data, there’s a good reason to think this would work, and then we find those projects and try and match them up with funders interested in helping that particular patient group.”

The organization’s funding comes from disease-specific not-for-profits, corporations and private donors.

Dr Bloom: “So most diseases out there don’t have a currently effective therapy, and it’s our job to take generic drugs and easy to find devices and find a way to repurpose them. There are probably right now 10,000 repurposing ideas out there. If we could gather them all in one place from all over the world, there’s at least that many. When you start to think of repurposing two generic drugs together or a drug with a device, there’s lots of work out there.”

You can learn more about Cures Within Reach at: http://www.cureswithinreach.org

And to learn more about an upcoming Cures Within Reach event honoring Midwest Bioscience Industry leaders and philanthropists that are making a positive impact on patients, go to: http://www.cureswithinreach.org/BAM

 

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