Welcome to The Human Gene and Cell Therapy Center of Akdeniz University
Although there appears to be no definitive cure for many human genetic diseases, there are some gene therapy products awaiting for FDA approval and expected to be released in the near future. So far, more than 2,000 clinical gene therapy trials were conducted worldwide involving tens of thousands of patients. Some of the gene therapy drugs are commercialized and already in the market. Consequently, there is a dramatic progress made in the clinical outcome of current gene therapy trials such as those conducted against Leber's Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), Thalassemia, SCID, Hemophilia and Muscular Dystrophy etc.
In October 2012, the European Commission granted marketing authorization for Glybera (alipogene tiparvovec) under exceptional circumstances as a treatment for adult patients diagnosed with familial lipoprotein lipase deficiency (LPLD) confirmed by genetic testing, and suffering from severe or multiple pancreatitis attacks despite dietary fat restrictions. Glybera is a gene therapy drug that is designed to restore the LPL enzyme activity required to enable the processing, or clearance, of fat-carrying chylomicron particles formed in the intestine after a fat-containing meal. The product consists of an engineered copy of the human LPL gene packaged with a tissue-specific promoter in a non-replicating AAV1 vector, which has a particular affinity for muscle cells.
Human Gene and Cell Therapy Center of Akdeniz University Hospitals and Clinics was initially established as the Human Gene Therapy Unit of College of Medicine by Dr. Salih Sanlioglu in 2003. In 2010, the unit was restructured as a center to include cell therapy studies as well. The Gene and Cell Therapy Center is currently located on the first floor of the Institute for Transplantation, Akdeniz University Hospitals and Clinics. Since clinical grade vector production requires cGMP laboratories, the Center has been scheduled to be relocated to a new R&D building in the near future.
Although, initial studies concerned the development of novel gene therapy methods for various cancer types such as cancers of the lung, prostate and breast etc. including auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, gene and cell therapy of diabetes became the priority in research due to alarming incidence of diabetes in the whole world. Accordingly, pancreatic islet transplantation fortified with gene delivery became a popular area of interest in the Center. These scientific projects relating to the diabetes treatment necessitated international collaboration to complete.
Some of the gene delivery vectors constructed and produced in the lab are shown on the right. These gene delivery vehicles are the most advanced gene therapy vectors normally used in gene therapy clinical trials. Adenovirus vectors are prefered in cancer gene therapy applications due to their antigenicity while AAV or Lentivirus vector is chosen when long term gene expression is desired.
For an instance, Alipogene tiparvovec (marketed under the trade name Glybera) is a AAV based gene therapy treatment designed to compensate for lipoprotein lipase deficiency (LPLD). It is the first of its kind to be approved as a gene therapy vector in the western world.
Nonetheless, due to outstanding quality of research and the scientific accomplishments, the center stands out to be one of the pioneering gene and cell therapy research facilities in the country. Accordingly, experimental gene and cell therapy protocols developed in the Center are published in the leading gene therapy journals like Human Gene Therapy, Cancer Gene Therapy, and Current Gene Therapy and diabetes journals etc. The founder of the Gene and Cell Therapy Center and his research activities are outlined below:
Gene Therapy for Diabetes Treatment
After graduating from the School of Veterinary Medicine, Selcuk University, Turkiye, Dr. Salih Sanlioglu attended the Ohio State University College of Medicine, where he obtained his Master's (1992) and PhD (1996) degrees in the field of Molecular Genetics.
Following completion of his postdoctoral training at the Human Gene Therapy Institute of University of Pennsylvania (1997) and internal medicine research fellowship at the Gene Therapy Center of University of Iowa (2002), Dr. Sanlioglu has joined the medical faculty of Akdeniz University, Antalya, Turkiye, and subsequently established the first human gene therapy facility in the country.
Although, his initial studies mainly concerned gene therapy of cancer, his latest research interest specifically focused on gene and cell therapy of diabetes due to widespread prevalence of the disease. As being the author of numerous research articles published in the prominent gene therapy journals, Dr. Sanlioglu constantly thrives upon novel genetic discoveries, which might one day make diabetes a treatable disease. One of his ultimate goals is to treat diabetes using 3rd generation of HIV-based Lentiviral vectors with antidiabetic properties.
For this purpose, genes with antidiabetic potential like VIP or GLP-1 have been cloned into the most advanced gene therapy vectors currently available. Dr. Sanlioglu has currenlty been working as a full professor at the Human Gene and Cell Therapy Center of Akdeniz University Hospitals and Clinics.