The Myelin Repair Foundation, a Bay Area nonprofit that has made incredible breakthroughs in supporting multiple sclerosis treatments, announced Monday that it will be closing its doors on August 31 due to lack of funding.
Founded in 2003 by Scott Johnson, himself a sufferer of MS, the MRF operates on a comparatively small budget—about $5 million a year—to develop and research new drugs and treatment options. In particular, MRF has focused on research looking into ways to restore myelin, a substance that protects nerve cells and is attacked by MS.
Their work has been largely successful so far: in 2013, the MRF licensed one model to biotech firm Biogen Inc. They also went beyond just partnering with industry members and not only funded academic research, but also set up its own labs to accelerate research into the degradation of myelin.
The MRF’s biggest success occurred this past April, when presented a long-forgotten high blood pressure drug to the NationaL Institutes of Health as a way to stop—or even repair—the damage MS does to the myelin sheaths that protect nerve cells.
“Ironically, even with tremendous success on the research side, we have struggled with raising enough money to keep up with our extraordinarily low research costs,” Johnson wrote in a letter to supporters.
This is likely due in large part to the fact that 56 donors provided 92% of the MRF’s revenue. Over the life of the organization, $55 million was raised from individuals and foundations in 29 countries. But this is small potatoes compared to other nonprofits: The National Multiple Sclerosis Society raised $250 million just last year.
Looking ahead, Johnson still believes a myelin-repair drug could be on the market within as few as ten years. He’s also proud of what the MRF has done, even though its time has been cut short.
“What we have accomplished will live on through the people we have worked with and the discoveries we have made,” he said.