Barts-MS rose-tinted-odometer: ★★★★★
I love science; it is such a thrill. I think science historians will look back at 2020 and the impact COVID-19 has had on science and scientific publishing and will define a new scientific era as being AC19 (after COVID-19) and the other era as BC19 (before COVID-19). The reason why I say this is because some of the changes that COVID-19 has induced in the scientific process such as multi-stakeholder collaborations, data sharing, pre-publication, rapid repurposing and sharing of laboratories and technologies, sharing of hypotheses, thinking aloud, pooled funding, virtual meetings, distributed working, online consenting for trials, streamlining of the ethics and regulatory approvals processes for clinical trials, the reduction in red-tape associated with research, etc. is unlikely to go away. One could argue that all of these individual changes may be small, but add them together and the scientific process is going to be very different after COVID-19; in particular, it is going to be faster.
I sincerely hope the MS community taps into the success of the COVID-19 model of doing science.
If I was in charge of MS Research, i.e. if I was the MS Research Tsar, I would have an open democratic competition to create a short-list of grand challenges in MS, i.e. hypotheses that need to be definitively tested at scale. I would then set-up an international steering committee of the deep thinkers in MS and make sure the MS politicians are excluded (those people of influence who often dominate these sorts of panels with their self-interests and blinkered and group thinking). These panels will have all their meeting in the open, i.e. lived streamed. The latter will make the scientific process transparent, which rarely happens and explains why so many MS researchers and research teams feel disenfranchised at present.
This panel would then select principal investigators to run the research programmes to address the grand challenges. These PIs will need to buy into the grand challenge, i.e. have skin in the game, have a track record in project management and have the necessary peoples skills to get the project done. I would also make sure the projects are milestone driven to have some control over the trajectory and success of the projects. Projects will need to have predefined go-no-go milestones so as not to waste resources.
I suspect one grand challenge will be vitamin D MS prevention studies. Although this is a daunting grand challenge it is essential that at some point the MS community takes up the challenge. The epidemiology and basic science around vD biology being in the MS causal pathway are so compelling how can we continue to ignore it?
The following prepublication is very interesting. It shows, using a non-biased screening of compounds, that of 121 compounds identified with activity against SARS-CoV-2, the active form of vD, calcitriol, exhibits potent activity against SARS-CoV-2. In other words, active vD has antiviral effects. Could these antiviral effects have something to do with vD’s role in potentially preventing MS? Could these antiviral effects extend to EBV and infectious mononucleosis? What about vD and HERVs (human endogenous retroviruses)?
I have so many questions and such limited time to answer them. My recent accident, and lucky escape, has made me realise how fragile life is; we all need to seize the day. Carpe diem!
COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 (1), was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020 (2). While awaiting a vaccine, several antivirals are being used to manage the disease with limited success (3, 4). To expand this arsenal, we screened 4 compound libraries: a United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug library, an angiotensin converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) targeted compound library, a flavonoid compound library as well as a natural product library. Of the 121 compounds identified with activity against SARS-CoV-2, 7 were shortlisted for validation. We show for the first time that the active form of Vitamin D, calcitriol, exhibits significant potent activity against SARS-CoV-2. This finding paves the way for consideration of host-directed therapies for ring prophylaxis of contacts of SARS-CoV-2 patients.
PS: Please support my new challenge: “Prof G’s crutches to 500 m Challenge“ we need to reach our target of £25,000 to support Dr Ruth Dobson and Dr Angray Kang’s COVID-19 MS Antibody Study. It is so important we get this study completed before COVID-19 becomes history. Please note that all of the money raised will go to Queen Mary University of London to support MS Research. Thank you.