Gene therapy is a promising therapeutic field in medicine that is experiencing unprecedented dynamic development. Unlike the majority of drugs on the market that merely treat symptoms, this approach attempts to correct the underlying genetic cause of a disease and thereby cure patients. Somagenetix seeks to harness the power of gene therapy to develop treatments for life-threatening diseases.
The first aim is to address an inborn immunodeficiency of phagocytes, which can lead to life‐threatening bacterial and fungal infections as well as to hyperinflammation. Life expectancy in affected children and young adults is compromised and the disease burden is high. To date, the only curative option is transplantation of blood-building stem cells from donors. In the absence of a compatible donor, the patient’s own stem cells can be gene corrected. Somagenetix is developing a treatment that comprises isolation of patient stem cells from bone marrow, addition of a therapeutic gene by lentiviral vectors to compensate for the inborn genetic defect and transplantation of gene-corrected cells back into the patient.
At later phases, the aim would be to apply this platform technology to cure other monogenetic defects in various diseases of the immune system, as well as in other fields of medicine.
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Uniscientia Stiftung, CRPP
ImmuGene (MeF of UZH)
Benjamin Merlin Gaub
Project Leader and Clinical Trial Manager
Benjamin M. Gaub joined Wyss Zurich in April 2019 as a project lead and clinical trial manager for Somagenetix. Somagenetix is harnessing the power of gene and cell therapy to treat patients with a life-threatening inborn immunodeficiency of phagocytes. Benjamin is responsible for coordinating efforts to establish i) the non-clinical safety and efficacy of mouse models ii) a GMP production process in connection with the Regenerative Medicine Platform at Wyss Zurich, and iii) an international multicenter phase I/II clinical trial. Benjamin received a B.Sc. in Chemistry from LMU Munich in 2008, completed his PhD in Neurobiology at UC Berkeley in 2015 and then joined ETH Zurich for a 3-year postdoctoral fellowship in Biophysics. During his academic training, Benjamin acquired valuable skills in gene therapy, leadership and entrepreneurship that he can now apply in his position as project lead in an effort to develop cutting-edge medical technology at Wyss Zurich.
Tel. +41 44 635 7688
Marija (Mary) Cesar joined Wyss Zurich in October 2019 as a GMP technician for Somagenetix. In this position she is primarily focused on preparation of biomaterials and the processing and analysis of human samples.
Mary has received her PhD in Neurobiology at University Tübingen in 1994, where she developed monoclonal antibodies and gained profound expertise in cell culture. After that, she did a postdoctoral fellowship in Cell Biology at the ETH Zurich. In 2001 she transitioned to the Hematology Division of University Hospital Zürich, where she was in charge of leading and coordinating the Bloodbank for 12 years. Process and method validation as well as instrument qualification was her daily routine. Mary joined Somagenetix in order to complement her knowledge in diagnostics with practical skills in the emerging field of gene therapy.
Tel: +41 44 634 8939
Chief Regulatory Affairs Officer
Vasilios Dabouras joined Wyss Zurich in October 2019 as Chief Regulatory Affairs Officer for Somagenetix. Somagenetix is harnessing the power of gene and cell therapy to treat patients with a life-threatening inborn immunodeficiency of phagocytes. Vasilios is responsible for regulatory aspects of the development of medicinal products, health authority interactions and the registration of planned clinical trials. Vasilios completed his PhD at the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at ETH Zurich before moving to industry. Vasilios has over 10 years of experience in regulatory affairs in the pharmaceutical Industry and at the European Medicines Agency. During this time, Vasilios gained experience in the regulation of the development and postmarketing of chemical and biotechnological products, plasma-derived products and ATMPs.
Tel. +41 44 635 7681
Head of GMP Production
Sandra Huber joined the Somagenetix project in March 2019. As Head of GMP Production, she is responsible for the development of the GMP-compliant production of a gene and cell therapy product to treat patients with an inborn immunodeficiency. Sandra received her PhD in Biomedical Sciences with specialization in cell and molecular biology at the University of Bern in 2018, and has several years of experience in immune hematology diagnostics and transfusion medicine as a biomedical analyst (BMA HF).
Tel. +41 44 634 8939
Simon Mathis joined Wyss Zurich in November 2019 as a GMP technician for Somagenetix. Somagenetix is harnessing the power of gene and cell therapy to treat patients with a life-threatening inborn immunodeficiency of phagocytes. As part of the production team, Simon will focus mainly on the establishment of a GMP production process in collaboration with the Regenerative Medicine Platform at Wyss Zurich, as well as on the non-clinical safety and efficacy of mouse models. Simon received a B.Sc. in Biotechnology from Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) in Wädenswil in 2019. During his studies, he acquired extensive knowledge and developed valuable skills that he can now apply in his current position at Wyss Zurich.
+41 44 634 89 39
Technical Project Manager and Non-Clinical Lead
Oleksandr Pastukhov joined Wyss Zurich in February 2020 as a Technical Project Manager and a Non-Clinical Lead for Somagenetix. Having pharmaceutical background, hands-on experience in gene therapy technologies, and in working in regulated environment, Oleksandr is responsible for development of a GMP-compliant manufacturing process and a GLP-compliant non-clinical testing of gene therapy medicinal products. Oleksandr received his diploma in clinical pharmacy from the National University of Pharmacy (Kharkiv, Ukraine) in 2006, where he then worked as a Research Associate conducting non-clinical testing of drug-candidates for pharmaceutical companies. Oleksandr completed his PhD in Biomedical Sciences at the Institute of Pharmacology (University of Bern) in 2015. The same year, he joined the University Children’s Hospital Zurich, and later the Institute for Regenerative Medicine (University of Zurich), where he worked as a Research Scientist on conventional and gene therapies for patients with inborn immune disorders.
Tel. +41 44 634 89 39
Ulrich Siler, Dr. rer. nat., biochemist, is the scientific laboratory head for gene therapy at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine (IREM) of the University of Zurich (UZH). Prior to entering academia in 2004, he worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a postdoctoral researcher. Since 2016 he has been an adjunct professor of Pediatric Immunology, Experimental Immunology and Gene Therapy at UZH. At University Children’s Hospital Zurich, he played a pivotal role, in collaboration with Prof. Janine Reichenbach and colleagues, in running the first successful clinical phase I/II gene therapy trial in 2005, aimed at curing patients with Chronic Granulomatous Disease. He developed a novel gene therapy system for the treatment of immunodeficiency, which will be translated into clinical practice as part of the Wyss Zurich Somagenetix project. Ulrich Siler serves as a mentor for the Somagenetix project.