World-first multiple sclerosis global image database launched

28 May 2021

Global repository enables greater research collaboration

A world-first global MS image database launched in Australia today complementing MSBase, the largest clinical MS patient registry, to advance MS research with potential for earlier diagnosis and precision monitoring.

Scanned image showing 3D segmentation of multiple sclerosis ‘lesions’ (red) from a patient with relapsing and remitting disease. Credit for images: Dr Tim Wang/Sydney Neuroimaging Analysis Centre

3D segmentation of multiple sclerosis ‘lesions’ (red) from a patient with relapsing and remitting disease. Credit for images: Dr Tim Wang/SNAC

The first global repository of curated and de-identified MRI scans of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients’ brains is now accessible to researchers worldwide, heralding a new era in real-world, collaborative clinical-imaging research in the field. 

The resource, co-developed by the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, along with MSBase and the Sydney Neuroimaging Analysis Centre (SNAC), has the potential to advance MS research, particularly in working towards earlier diagnosis and monitoring of disease progression.

Under development for the past 18 months, the novel imaging platform complements MSBase - the largest worldwide clinical MS patient registry with more than 75,000 patients.

The new MSBase Imaging Repository (MSBIR) integrates state-of-the-art informatics with an AI analytics engine, fostering a new generation of imaging biomarkers for precision monitoring of MS. It is designed to securely house raw de-identified imaging data for MS patients from multiple sites globally that can be accessed by registered contributing research groups, bringing capacity and scalability to clinical MS imaging research.

Professor Michael Barnett, the University’s  project lead in the Computational Neuroimaging team at the Brain and Mind Centre, said MSBIR would globalise efforts to advance and fast-track real-world clinical-imaging research in MS.

"Imaging biomarkers support earlier diagnostics and this is the first time MS imaging data has been coordinated on this scale,” Professor Barnett said.

“MSBIR will significantly enhance real-world MS imaging research, provide AI-based quantitative MRI metrics to participating researchers, and facilitate multi-centre advanced MS imaging research previously not possible.

“Research makes great leaps when we collaborate – MSBIR globalises our efforts to advance and fast-track real-world clinical-imaging research in the field of MS."

MSBase Foundation Fellow, Dr Heidi Beadnall from the Faculty of Medicine and Health has been working on the development of the MSBIR platform with Professor Barnett and a collaborative team of imaging scientists and engineers at the Brain and Mind Centre. 

“The MSBIR platform has enormous potential in providing MS researchers with significantly greater access to large volumes of imaging data,” said Dr Beadnall.

”Paired with detailed clinical information, this can assist in increasing future knowledge about MS diagnosis, monitoring and management. 

"We are thrilled to see this platform come to life and grateful to the collaborators and sponsors who made this possible, especially the people who live with MS and their clinicians who participate in research - without their support we would not be able to make such great strides in MS discovery."

Managing Director of MSBase Foundation Professor Helmut Butzkueven congratulated those involved in the ambitious and exciting project.

“This repository will power state-of-the-art research that can almost immediately be translated into better care and better outcomes for people with MS,” said Professor Butzkueven, who also heads the Department of Neuroscience at Monash University.

About the collaborative image database

MSBIR securely stores raw, automatically de-identified scans in a customised Radiologics XNAT platform. MRI scans are contributed by participating global MSBase sites to MSBIR, which comprises several jurisdictionally discrete, cloud-based servers.  The power of MSBIR will continue to grow as international sites, both current and new to MSBase, contribute additional imaging data.     

The MSBIR is at and is accessible to clinician researchers registered with the not-for-profit MSBase, the largest online registry for MS researchers.


MSBIR has been co-developed by the University of Sydney's Computational Neuroimaging Team at the Brain and Mind Centre, MSBase and the Sydney Neuroimaging Analysis Centre. This initial phase of MSBIR has received funding from the University of Sydney’s Nerve Research Foundation, MSBase, and industry sponsors Biogen, Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck, Novartis and Roche. Approximately 50 percent of the funding for MSBIR Phase 1 has come from industry collaborators.         

This is the first time MS imaging data has been coordinated on this scale.
Professor Michael Barnett

Related articles