The ACTRIMS-ECTRIMS international conference, originally planned to take place in Washington, DC, was held virtually between the 11th and 13th of September due to restrictions caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The event is held every three years and represents a meeting of the best minds in terms of medical and scientific expertise, innovation, and medical advances in the fight against multiple sclerosis (MS). It is the largest MS research conference in the world.
MS is a chronic unpredictable disease of the central nervous system in which damage is inflicted on nerves, resulting in a range of symptoms including fatigue, numbness, coordination problems, tremor, or even paralysis. An estimated 2.3 million people worldwide are living with a diagnosis of MS. The global multiple sclerosis drugs market was valued at $25 billion in 2019 , and is projected to grow to $40.7 billion by 2027.
In the context of the ACTRIMS-ECTRIMS conference, the French pharmaceutical research company AB Science presented results of its phase 2B/3 study (AB07002)  on the effects of masitinib, a proprietary molecule, on primary progressive (PPMS) and non-active secondary progressive (nSPMS) multiple sclerosis. This most recent event represents a new stage of recognition for the molecule, which AB Science claims could be a potential breakthrough treatment. A patent had already been filed off the back of the initial results  of the study.
The principal study coordinator, Professor Patrick Vermersch, spoke at the event, outlining the promising findings.
Having received authorisation to carry out the study from the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency, the new results should attract interest from investors and larger laboratories with stakes in MS treatments, such as Biogen or Sanofi.
Masitinib is a first-in-class oral drug, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor, designed for progressive forms of multiple sclerosis, which targets the innate immune system  by modulating the activity of mast cells and microglia. There are currently a number of ongoing masitinib trials in different clinical fields, from oncology  to neurology  and inflammatory disorders .
Masitinib is the first treatment to offer a net slowdown in the evolution of the disease through this specific and unique mode of action. It has not shown evidence of an increased risk of infection for patients, so the molecule appears to be suitable for long-term treatment of MS, which is a chronic illness.
Progressive MS treatment is almost a virgin market. Currently, there is one product registered for PPMS patients with active disease, Roche’s ocrelizumab . However, no drugs have been registered for non-active progressive MS patients. As such, there is room for significant disruption should the relevant treatment emerge.