Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is the most frequent neuroinflammatory disease. Despite new treatments that slow the progression of the disease, patients with MS (PwMS) frequently evolve towards major disability. The pathogenesis of MS is controversially debated, but the recent discovery that infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a major risk factor will radically change research avenues. The BEHIND-MS consortium ambitions to understand how EBV promotes MS development. To this end, we have established a multidisciplinary team that will for the first time draw a comprehensive map of the interactions between the virus and all arms of the immune system in the blood and brain of PwMS and how they ultimately lead to neural damage, in the context of genetic risk factors. We will also develop an in vitro model of MS that integrates the virus, the immune system and brain cells reprogrammed from the blood of the same PwMS. Thus, for the first time, we will study in the laboratory the complex molecular mechanisms that give rise to MS. Finally, we will develop an animal model of prodromal MS that would be a ‘game changer’ for our understanding of MS pathogenesis and allow testing of promising new treatments. The pivotal knowledge developed in this project will empower the entire healthcare value chain to work towards better clinical management of MS. A detailed understanding of EBV-MS interactions, combined with newly identified biomarkers, and study models will open the doors for researchers, clinicians and industry to capitalize on the mechanisms underlying EBV-MS interactions, and develop new diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic tools and guidelines. Throughout the project, an open dialogue with the main stakeholder representatives will ensure a mutual understanding of patient needs and project results.
Ultimately, by contributing to improved risk analysis, stratification and treatment strategies, BEHIND-MS has the