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About Research


F.A.Q. About Society- Funded MS Research
Introduction | Funding | Decisions/Oversight | Programs | Focus | Philosophies
Intriguing Leads | Progressive MS | Discoveries We’ve Made | Progress


What is the Scope of the Society’s Research Program?


The Society spends more money on MS research than any other voluntary health agency in the world, investing some $40 million annually on research programs. This includes more than 350 MS research investigations at the best medical centers, universities and other institutions throughout the United States and abroad.


By the end of FY 2006, the Society will have spent $500 million on research-related programs since its founding. This investment is paying off in significant progress toward finding treatments and in better diagnosis, rehabilitation and symptomatic therapy for people with all forms of MS. 


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Where Does the Research Money Come From?


The nationwide network of National MS Society chapters, through generous contributors, provides the lion’s share of support for the research program. Of the unrestricted income Society chapters share with the Home Office, half goes toward MS research programs.


Research also receives half of the Home Office’s share of direct mail net income and 100 percent of all donations restricted to research. This includes gifts received through the Research Honor Roll, a program recognizing Society chapters that provide research-restricted gifts beyond the share that normally goes to the Home Office.



What Percentage of Society Expenses Supports the Research Mission?

As shown in Figure 1, research programs account for about 44 percent of all Home Office expenses. When expenditures of chapters and the Home Office are combined, research accounts for 20 percent of all money spent by the Society.



How Does Society Research Spending Compare to Spending by Other Voluntary Health Agencies?


The Society’s research investment can be compared with other voluntary health agencies, that, like the Society, consider both research and client programs significant parts of their mission. For example, research accounts for 15 percent of expenditures at the American Cancer Society, 24 percent at the American Diabetes Association, and 24 percent at the American Heart Association.


The main source of MS research funding in the U.S. is the federal government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH). Through several of its branches, the NIH spends approximately $109 million annually for MS-related research. Other governments, foundations and agencies, such as member societies of the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation, also fund MS research.



Where Does the Society’s Research Money Go?


The Society’s research programs budget supports a spectrum of research grants and training fellowships, which includes support for research personnel, supplies and equipment. The Society also supports scientific workshops to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas and facilitate communication of new findings in a field that, owing to the nature of MS, encompasses many different scientific disciplines.


The research programs budget also supports the peer review process, and staff and other administrative costs involved in actually running the program.


Does the Society Run its Own Labs?

No. This would duplicate facilities already available at top-notch universities. The Society instead funds investigators working on basic or clinical research projects at their own institutions.



Where is the Society Investing the Most Research Dollars?

The Society supports MS research in the U.S. and abroad. The institutions that currently receive the most research support for their investigators are:


-Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital

-University of California at San Francisco

-Johns Hopkins University

-University of Wisconsin-Madison

-Mayo Clinic and Foundation

-Cleveland Clinic Foundation

-University of Cambridge

-Stanford University



Does the Society Have Sufficient Funds to Support Emerging Research Opportunities?


No. The cost of undertaking scientific research is escalating faster than the cost of living, and new high-powered technologies are both resource- and staff-intensive. At the same time, NIH funding for research related to MS is very tight.


The Society makes commitments to individual research projects based on future income projections. Even when we make a commitment, it is made pending the availability of funds. We do not have “in the bank” sufficient funds to cover our current and out-year costs for projects to which we have made commitments.


Our current and out-year commitments for ongoing research projects are nearly $90 million. As we increase focus on larger-scale, “big ticket” undertakings, we will have additional pressures on our expendable research budget.