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UPDATE: MRF convenes 12th annual research meeting and completes the closure of its Translational Medicine Center.

President’s Update

The Myelin Repair Foundation leaves behind a legacy whose impact will be felt for years to come.

November 30, 2015

photo of Scott Johnson

Dear Friends and Supporters of MRF,

I last wrote to you to tell you about developments in each our areas of focus: Preparations for the 2015 annual research meeting, the progress we had made in finding a home for our myelin repair assays, and the progress of the MRF-008 clinical trial.

We have used the past two months to wrap up and complete all on-going research activities.

We brought our worldwide scientific team together here in Silicon Valley from November 10th to the 12th. The participants presented and discussed the latest research results on basic science, translational programs and clinical trials. In addition to our academic scientists and scientific advisors we invited eight individuals from commercial entities – a venture capitalist and an entrepreneur who are each interested in starting remyelination companies, and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries who is interested in neuroprotection and remyelination. Our advisory board members commented on how much progress has been made in myelin repair because of MRF and were proud of the impact that the MRF team has had.

We continued the wind down of our Translational Medicine Center (TMC). Our overarching goal as we worked to close the TMC was to ensure that our assays would be used for myelin repair research in the future by as many organizations as possible. To that end we documented each assay with detailed protocols, we wrote and submitted three scientific papers for publication, and we sought others whom we could train to use these complex and sophisticated analytical tools. We are pleased that Teva Pharmaceutical has adopted the suite of assays created over many years by MRF. It is gratifying to us that they are already being used by Teva in their drug discovery efforts.

In addition, like the MRF, Teva considers the MRF developed assays as an important resource for anyone involved in neuroprotection and myelin repair research. Teva views itself as a steward of that resource, and will train others who are interested in learning the techniques or possibly test compounds for others.

Closing the TMC and moving out is now complete. Today is the last day as employees of MRF for our research staff members. MRF has come full circle from what was considered a radical idea in 2002 when I began exploring the possibility of myelin repair. For many years we had about one hundred people on the MRF team working together to accelerate myelin repair. MRF employees have now taken new jobs with other entities and I will now spend only a small part of my time involved in myelin repair.

I am proud to say that over the last thirteen years MRF has had a tremendous impact on the field of myelin repair. Because of MRF there is a much greater understanding of myelin damage, protection, and repair. There is much more focus on and funding for myelin research by other non-profits and pharmaceutical companies, and there are related clinical trials underway. I hope as an MRF supporter you are as proud of our accomplishments as I am.

I can’t thank you enough for your support and belief in our ambitious quest to repair the central nervous system of MS patients.


Scott Johnson

P.S.: MRF thanks you for your support, but is no longer accepting donations.

“Although hundreds of thousands of scholarly scientific articles are published every year, the FDA approves less than two-dozen new drugs a year. What's missing is the translation of all that cutting-edge science into cutting-edge cures. That's where the MRF comes in.”

Scott Cook, Co-Founder, Intuit

“The Myelin Repair Foundation's model—which brings together researchers and works to ensure that their work is relevant to development of patient treatments—is a critical innovation at a time when our system of drug development is looking for new ideas.”

Elliot Gerson, Aspen Institute and Rhodes Trust

“There are many foundations funding research on different diseases, but fewer that are investing in the infrastructure to manage that research more effectively.”

Nancy Barrand, Special Advisor for Program Development, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

“Innovation is a decidedly social process encompassing diverse individuals, corporations, communities, networks, and regions. The work of the Myelin Repair Foundation is an excellent demonstration of these principles.”

John Hagel, Co-Chair, Deloitte LLC, Center for Edge Innovation

“I am drawn to new ideas that have the potential to change a market. I am inspired by the MRF's business model and advanced medical research concepts. MRF is a non-profit, but it breaks every rule and barrier to the speed of a start-up with the agility of a successful business.”

Samantha Fein, Managing Director, Threxy

“Unlike a lot of other organizations, the Myelin Repair Foundation really understands the intersection between academia and pharma. And if you're going to make a difference in MS, myelin repair is where you're going to have to put your efforts. We are putting efforts there.”

Craig Sorensen, Vice President, Vertex Pharmaceuticals

“Working with MRF is an unmistakable path for me to bring effective therapeutics — and new hope — for all patients in need.”

Beatrice Perotti, Ph.D., M.B.A., President and CEO, Beatrice Perotti, Inc.

“Breaking down barriers between academic research and commercial drug development will be the centerpiece of the Myelin Repair Foundation's legacy.”

William K. Bowes. Jr., Founder Amgen, U.S. Venture Partners

“Through our funding, we look for ways to make medical research more relevant to health improvement. MRF's leadership in transforming the research paradigm is very compelling to us.”

Lynne Garner, Trustee & President, Donaghue Foundation

“We view the Myelin Repair Foundation's Accelerated Research Collaboration model as just that, a transformative idea with the potential to pioneer a new approach to medical research that can speed the discovery process and lead to the development of new treatments.”

Carl Schramm, President and CEO, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

“Not enough progress has been made, fast enough, toward effective treatments for MS. I am involved with the Myelin Repair Foundation because I really believe in the methodology: Getting the best people together to solve a really tough problem collaboratively. I truly believe that the Myelin Repair Foundation offers real hope.”

Julie Wainwright, Founder and CEO,

“MRF's collaborative model is … definitely accelerating results. The scientists have made important advances that, if the labs had been working on their own, would have been much less likely.”

Brian Popko, Ph.D., University of Chicago, Director, Jack Miller Center for Peripheral Neuropathy, Associate Chair for Research, Department of Neurology

“I support the MRF for two reasons. Personally, I have a connection to MS: My husband has MS. But even beyond that, the vision of Myelin Repair Foundation and the method that they are proving out to get drugs to people faster is a really big vision that is important for a lot of unmet medical needs and it is exciting to be a part of it.”

Sharon Wienbar, Managing Partner, Scale Venture Partners

“If you just leave it to basic scientists working alone in their own labs, converting basic scientific discoveries into drugs almost never happens. Without the ARC model there is no infrastructure for accelerating drug development.”

Ben Barres, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine, Chair, Neurobiology Department

“Disease foundations play an important role in funding early stages of research when other research and investment dollars are scarce. I am impressed by what the Myelin Repair Foundation is doing to encourage collaboration. MRF's model is novel and spot-on in terms of moving innovative research forward.”

Gail Maderis, President and CEO, BayBio: Northern California's Life Science Association

“The Myelin Repair Foundation has identified the best labs in a defined area and brought them together with excellent and independent minds from the pharmaceutical industry to advance the most promising ideas for novel therapeutics.”

Martin Raff, M.D., Emeritus Professor, University College London

“Collaborative innovation — bringing together people from different disciplines, with complementary skills — is a powerful strategy for solving complex problems. The MRF's model provides important lessons for the pharmaceutical industry, which faces a crisis of innovation in developing treatments for complex diseases.”

Karim R. Lakhani, Harvard Business School

“Not enough progress has been made, fast enough, toward effective treatments for MS. I am involved with the MRF because I really believe in the methodology: Getting the best people together to solve a really tough problem collaboratively. I truly believe that the MRF offers real hope.”

Ted Yednock, Executive Vice President, Head of Global Research, Elan Pharmaceuticals

“I believe the most striking accomplishment has been the success of the model. The thought that one could get several excellent basic scientists to work in a united effort with a clinical target in mind is really impressive... Not only has the group worked together, but there are now products of this effort. Very impressive!

Henry F. McFarland, M.D. (Ret.), National Institutes of Health