The recent approval of a new treatment for multiple sclerosis marks a partnership between Oxford and the University of Cambridge stretching 20 years.

Lincoln College Professor Herman Waldmann and his team of Cambridge researchers have been collaborating to develop Alemtuzumab, a new treatment for multiple sclerosis, which was approved by the European Medicines Agency last month.

“In particular, we have great admiration for the neurology team in Cambridge with whom we have worked on this project for so many years,” Waldmann said. “Their commitment and focus has been exemplary, and this has been a good example of basic and clinical science collaboration at its best.”

Multiple sclerosis is a disease affecting nerves in the brain and spinal cord, causing problems with muscle movement, balance and vision, and affects more than 100,000 people in the U.K. Alemtuzumab reboots the immune system by depleting immune cells, leading to a modified, positive immune response.

Joseph Sanchez, a third year biochemist, commented that the work leading to this approval demonstrates the necessity for high-level University medical research.

He said, “Medical research is a necessary facet for academic institutions because it gives not only precedence for the university or college itself to make strides in particular fields. It also sets a basis for academic enlightenment in student bodies and encourages those interested in improving their immediate surroundings to actually take action in solving the problems for the future.”

Although the drug does assist in treatment of multiple sclerosis, it also causes an additionally auto-immune disease in one-third of patients. For Sanchez, this does not necessarily present an ethical dilemma, considering the significance of the disease.

He said, “What MS does is virtually strip your nervous system of any kind of protective coating that prevents misfiring of electrical signals throughout your body. In many cases, it can cause such debilitating pain and such horrendous conditions that not even the most potent of medication can alleviate the disease’s effects.

“Thus, while the side effect of potentially receiving another autoimmune disease is extremely serious and should not be taken lightly (which is why the researchers appear to be taking action to improve on these conditions), I think that it comes down to the patients’ choice to weigh the options and decide what’s best for their own body.”

According to the University of Cambridge, researchers are continuing to look into this side effect and how to identify people who are susceptible to it.