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)
Dominik Wrona joined Wyss Zurich in January 2022 as Project Leader of the Somagenetix project. He coordinates the development of a gene therapy medicinal product for patients with an inborn immunodeficiency of phagocytes. Dominik received his MSc in Biotechnology from the Jagiellonian University (Cracow, Poland) in 2014. In the same year, he began his PhD studies at the Division of Immunology at the University Children’s Hospital Zurich, and later transitioned together with the group to the Institute for Regenerative Medicine (IREM) at the University of Zurich. He received his PhD from the University of Zurich in 2019 for his work on application of gene editors in treatment of genetic disorders of the immune system. During his postdoctoral studies at the IREM, he has been involved in the development of new gene editors and acquired expertise in regulatory aspects of the emerging advanced therapy medicinal products.
+41 44 635 29 11
Stacy Duarte holds an MSc in Biomedical Engineering and Biophysics from the University of Lisbon. She did her master thesis at MERLN Institute for Technology-Inspired Regenerative Medicine at the Maastricht University, where she produced and characterized 3D polymeric scaffolds and analyzed their interaction with human mesenchymal stem cells. Stacy joined the Manufacturing Department of Lonza Netherlands in 2018, where she carried out tissue culture activities for cell therapy, according to GMP rules. As an enthusiastic about the new generation of medicines and seeking to be involved in the translation science of these, she joined the Somagenetix group in September 2020. Here, she will focus on the establishment of the production of a gene therapy treatment and support non-clinical studies.
Technical Project Manager and Production Team Leader
Oleksandr Pastukhov joined Wyss Zurich in February 2020 as a Technical Project Manager and a Non-Clinical Lead for Somagenetix. In January 2021 he took the role of Technical Project Manager and Production Team Leader. 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.
Preclinical Project Manager
Panagiotis Tsapogas joined Wyss Zurich in November 2020 as a Scientific Associate for Somagenetix. In January 2021 he took the role of Preclinical Project Manager. Panagiotis holds a PhD in Immunology from Lund University (Sweden). After that, he pursued his interest in the development of the immune system by investigating how immune cells are generated. His research, which he conducted first at Linköping University (Sweden) and later at the University of Basel, revealed important mechanisms that regulate the formation of white blood cells. Apart from academic research, he has also worked on the development of therapeutic antibodies for the treatment of patients with leukemia. As a member of the Somagenetix project, Panagiotis will apply his scientific and technical expertise to the development of GLP-compliant assays and non-clinical studies.