It’s game on for Merck KGaA in a new partnership with popular social video gaming platform Twitch to promote multiple sclerosis awareness. The two teamed up for World MS Day in a first collaboration that highlights the isolating nature of MS and the connections technology and remote video gaming provide.
The eight-hour livestreamed event May 30 gathered popular Twitch influencers, people living with MS as well as physicians and advocates to raise awareness and push back against the stigma around the disease.
Popular Twitch streamers the Yogscast network, @NickEh30, @BrookeAB and @Swiftor hosted gaming sessions and held conversations with doctors and patients about MS facts and advice.
The partners also raised money. For each re-share of posts with the hashtags #MSConnections and #MSInsideOut from its social channels, including @EMDSerono, Merck KGaA donated €1 to the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF).
“This collaboration with Twitch is just one example of how we are open for innovative approaches to reach new demographics in our ongoing support for the MS community. We are proud to support the MSIF and other MS patient and professional organizations around the world—on World MS Day and beyond,” Andrew Paterson, head of Merck KGaA neurology and immunology, said in an email interview.
He noted that the social isolation proven to impact people living with MS is particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, as most people have now come to understand at least in part the importance of networks and community. One of the ways people have come together during this time is online socializing via gaming platforms like Twitch, he said.
“As a company that strives to understand MS from the inside out, we know that social barriers can leave people affected by MS feeling lonely and socially isolated,” Paterson said.
Through the company's research, “we also have learnt that there is more to MS than the physical impact of the condition," he added.
"We stay curious about the person behind the disease and also those that care for them; always seeking to understand their challenges and fears, their hopes and ambitions. It's only by understanding that we can anticipate their changing needs and find new ways to support them," he said.
Merck KGaA has a long history in MS. Its Rebif, originally approved to treat relapsing MS back in 2002, is an anti-inflammatory drug, while Mavenclad is a newer entrant with a March 2019 FDA approval that made it the only oral short-term therapy for MS in the relapsing-remitting and active secondary progressive settings. In Merck's pipeline is BTK inhibitor evobrutinib, now entering phase 3 trials. Merck KGaA recently presented data for the treatment that showed high and sustained efficacy in MS through 108 weeks.