Michigan-based Memorial Healthcare is leading a clinical renaissance and putting the provider and clinical investigative site on the worldwide map by pioneering clinic-based research on a new blood test for multiple sclerosis (MS) on thousands of patients.
Memorial Healthcare is a small 161-bed rural referral center in central Michigan. Believed to be one of the only hospitals in the United States where the Simoa Analyzer MS blood test technology is being tested. About 100 universities that are testing the MS blood test technology on animals worldwide.
Memorial’s Institute for Neurosciences and Multiple Sclerosis
The Memorial Institute for Neurosciences and Multiple Sclerosis offers patients a multi-disciplinary approach to MS care that is in effect “one-stop shopping” for co-located neurology, orthopedics, rehabilitation, and wellness programs. Rany Aburashed, DO has been a driving force for the institute.
NeuroFilament Light Chain technology or NfL
The blood test used by Memorial Healthcare uses “neurofilament light chain’ technology (NfL) which is still under clinical trials in the U.S. and not approved by the U.S. FDA. It is widely being researched in Europe. Crain’s Detroit reports that the blood test detects NfL, a structural protein that forms part of the internal skeleton of neurons. As brain neurons are either damaged or dying the protein leaks into the fluid covering the brain and spinal cord—thereafter it travels into the bloodstream.
An NfL-based Clinical Trial
Earlier this year Aburashed secured a greenlight from the hospital’s institutional review board (IRB) for a five-year research study to test NfL technology. The machine needed to test NfL, the Simoa Analyzer, from Quanterix Corp from Billerica, MA. The machine came at a hefty price of $150,000 and will be leveraged for a $500,000 neurology research budget. Memorial Healthcare neurologists are busy seeking and securing research grants as well.
An Entrepreneurial Clinical Site
Memorial Healthcare isn’t large and they didn’t have the pedigree or scale of neighbors such as the Henry Ford Health System. Running cutting-edge research takes capital and since 2014 Memorial invested about $4.3 million in its neurology department (excluding capital costs) to bolster up its staff, operations, and capabilities. CEO Brian Long noted “We need neurology volume growth to support the research” and since they have made incremental, calculated and bold moves he continued “We are excited about offering research not just for this community, but for the larger community of Michigan and the region, even potentially nationally and beyond.”
Growth in MS Drugs
The FDA has approved more than 15 MS drugs—tripling the number of approvals since 2010. Memorial is part of a movement to create compelling new options for MS patients.
Aburashed and other Memorial neurologists are not yet making treatment decisions based on the investigational Simoa Analyzer blood tests—they are still investigational (not approved by the FDA). The test results, however, are used to supplement the standard of care for MS patients. Moreover, Memorial offers an individualization of patient care as they analyze blood samples of about 450 patients over the last four months using the investigational technology and analyzer. Aburashed notes “every patient we see is now tested.”
Crain’s Detroit noted that the medical chief of neuroimmunology and founder of the OhioHealth Multiple Sclerosis Clinic in Columbus, OH—Aaron Boster, MD —noted that Memorial is conducting revolutionary research that will improve outcomes of patients with MS. Both Boster and Abuashed have known each other for years now and both belief in taking MS diagnosis and treatment to 21st-century performance. Boster believes that Memorial is on its way to help the MS community discover a biomarker for MS similar to what the hemoglobin HbA1c3 biomarker test did for the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes. The field is in desperate need of biomarkers—measurements that can offer material insight into the disease process. Boster, a national MS expert, and researcher, believes that “NfL will revolutionize the entire field and will change everything.”
Call to Action: Do you or a loved one have an MS diagnosis? Consider connecting with Dr. Aburashed and the team to learn more about their innovative testing and treatment methods. They are on a mission for MS treatments. Follow Memorial Healthcare or feel free to contact us to learn more about the TrialSite Network concierge services in development. We can connect you to Memorial Healthcare.