McMaster University

McMaster University

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Health Sciences

Drug developed at McMaster will aid MS patients

Published: February 3, 2010
Robert Hansebout
Robert Hansebout, neurosurgeon and professor emeritus in the Department of Surgery

For people with advanced multiple sclerosis, walking across their own bedroom can be difficult, but a drug initially developed at McMaster University is offering them new hope.

The drug, Ampyra (generic name dalfampridine) received approval last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is the first drug approved to improve walking in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). This was demonstrated by an increase in walking speed.

The drug’s approval arrives 20 years after McMaster University neurosurgeon and professor emeritus, Robert Hansebout, began working with the drug. His initial work, conducted at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, focused on chronic patients with spinal cord injuries. During those early studies the drug was found to enhance sensory, motor and other reduced functions. 

"For over 30 years my research has been dedicated to improving the quality of life of persons with damage of the spinal cord. Ampyra is the first product that comes to market which accomplishes this elusive goal," says Dr. Hansebout.

"I am delighted that my contributions and those of my colleagues to the development of Ampyra will enhance the independence of a significant number of people worldwide who have sustained damage to the spinal cord, due to multiple sclerosis. Hopefully, with more studies, the benefit will extend to those with spinal cord injury in the future."

Ampyra is a classic example of how long and complicated the process of drug development can be.  Dr. Hansebout first worked with the Canadian Spinal Research Organization. Later development was continued by Acorda Therapeutics. Over the course of many studies, the drug’s target indication shifted from spinal cord injuries to spasticity, then to MS as researchers became more knowledgeable about the drug and the benefits to MS patients.

This drug has been submitted to Canadian and European regulators. Approximately 55,000 Canadians have MS.

"Research is not instantly gratifying, but with perseverance it can improve people’s lives," said Mo Elbestawi, vice-president, research and international affairs for McMaster University. "Dr. Hansebout’s work demonstrates both the importance of persistence and how McMaster’s research can and does benefit human health."

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