Discovery MS is the result of a 15-year journey of discovery and partnership.
I joined the faculty at the Duke Center for Human Genetics in 2003 after working on the Human Genome Project (HGP) in the UK for 10 years. Not only did the HGP give me a great grounding in genetics and genomics but it made me appreciate the necessity to develop a collaborative, inclusive approach to my science. Through collaboration, we published a paper in 2007 on IL7R, the first gene in 20 years to be associated with genetic risk of multiple sclerosis.
Legacy of IL7R
Discovering the genetic association between MS and the IL7R gene was groundbreaking, but it was just the beginning. Over the next 10 years my collaborative research interests blossomed beyond just deciphering how IL7R is involved in the development of MS, but into a portfolio of diverse MS research approaches that has connected me with collaborators at multiple institutions across the country and the world. We are now looking at biomarkers of the disease, molecular mechanisms of disease function in model organisms, and novel drugs that may regulate the disease through modulating the immune system and promoting remyelination.
None of this could be possible without the coincidence of circumstance. In 2010 I became the Director of the Genomics Laboratory at the David H. Murdock Research Institute (DHMRI) on the NC Research Campus (NCRC) in Kannapolis, NC. It was in this role that I was introduced to Mr. Herman Stone who wanted to see an MS research focus within the DHMRI that David Murdock, founder of the NCRC and owner and CEO of Dole Foods and Castle & Cooke, Inc., created. Ultimately, Herman gifted a generous philanthropic donation that launched our DHMRI MS research program and laid the foundation for what is now Discovery MS.
Founding Discovery MS
For me, one of the most rewarding parts of conducting research is meeting the many people who live with MS. Whether is it meeting individuals and their families in the context of our MS MURDOCK sub-study, participating in patient advocacy groups, or lobbying congress on behalf of the National MS Society, their friendship and support is a continual motivation. These outreach opportunities gave me the chance to work with Herman and Jason Cox to launch Discovery MS as an independent MS research program.
Through the partnership of financial support and scientists from Duke University, DHMRI, and beyond, Discovery MS has emerged as a new way to develop a network of scientific inquiry that will allow us to apply a variety of research approaches to investigate questions aimed at understanding the pathogenesis of MS. This approach gives us the advantage of multiple lines of discovery from which we already have promising leads on new diagnostic biomarkers and potential therapeutic targets to halt disease progression. With independent support, we don’t have to limit ourselves to any one research path; by doing so we can use multiple approaches and collaborate with the best minds to achieve the goal of slowing the disease and finding a cure.
We can’t do any of this work without the collaboration of other scientists and the contributions of our supporters, including both financial backers and study participants. We at Discovery MS are immensely grateful to all those who enabled us to embark on this journey, either through the generous provision of biospecimens or through philanthropy, and in doing so are joining our discovery driven research program.
I invite you to explore our website, subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on social media and join our Discovery MS team.
With highest regard,
Dr. Simon Gregory
Discovery MS Principal Investigator