Multiple sclerosis

Our research is focussed on finding better therapies for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) by optimising current treatments and developing new drugs for various forms of the disease.

Multiple sclerosis affects 3500 New Zealand families. The chronic autoimmune disease causes nerve degeneration via a process of demyelination – damage to the myelin sheath around the nerves – and results in a gradual loss of feeling, movement, vision and cognition.

MS is a complicated disease. Not only do the symptoms vary from one person to another, but the disease has three distinct forms: a relapsing-remitting form and two progressive forms. Although different drugs are now available to treat the relapsing-remitting form, there is no treatment for people with progressive disease.

anne ms


Professor Anne La Flamme, in the School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington, leads our MS research.

Her work is investigating the underlying mechanisms of the disease and working to develop new drugs for progressive disease. A new mouse model of progressive disease is now established at the Institute and is proving to be a valuable tool in understanding demyelination.

In work with Innate Immunotherapeutics developing a new immune-based therapy for secondary progressive MS (MIS416), Anne and her team are investigating the major biological pathways that are critical for the drug to work. They are also looking for biomarkers that may link a beneficial response in a patient to a change in their immune system.

By tracking these changes, valuable information about which therapies would benefit particular groups of patients can be gained. MIS416 is currently in a Phase 2B clinical trial in
Australia and New Zealand.

Valued support

We would like to acknowledge and thank The Great New Zealand Trek Charitable Trust and Trekking Events for their continued support of our MS research. Being part of the Trek is always a special experience for Anne La Flamme, who traveled through Canterbury with the group in 2015.

“I like to walk along with people so I can answer their questions about the research we’re doing, one on one. The Trek has supported our MS research directly since 2009 and maintains a real interest in what we do. We are so grateful to everyone involved. Their support has made a very significant contribution to our research programme over the years and enabled us to do things we couldn’t have dreamed of doing otherwise.”

Since the trek began at Cape Reinga, we have been honoured to receive more than $200,000 from their fundraising efforts.