It is with great pleasure that the board of the ESGCT confers to professor Seppo Yla-Herttuala the award to his outstanding career.
Professor Yla-Herttuala was selected for his outstanding contribution to the field of gene therapy and his ability to execute top quality basic science and to translate those discoveries into potential new human therapies and for his effort serving the European Society of Gene and Cell therapy.
He has served as the President of the European Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (2010-2012), Board member of the European Society of Cardiology and is currently Chairman of the Biocenter of Kuopio and EU-EATRIS national network. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy’s leading gene therapy journal Molecular Therapy (2015-2020).
Major Scientific achievements:
Prof. Yla-Herttuala is a pioneer and international leader in cardiovascular gene therapy. He was the first in the world to apply adenoviral gene transfer to human arteries in 1995 with following phase I/II trials where VEGF significantly improved myocardial perfusion.
His other main discoveries include promoter-targeted upregulating shRNAs, a finding that half of the VEGF regulated genes are regulated by promoter pausing, vasculoprotective effect of VEGF which led to a successful phase II trial to prevent graft stenosis in dialysis patients, perivascular gene delivery device, cloning of soluble scavenger receptor to treat hyperlipidemia and avidin-lipoprotein receptor fusion protein (Scavidin) for targeted drug delivery. He has also made several primary observations in the biology and signalling of new VEGFs, particularly cardiospecificity of VEGF-B and the importance of VEGF-C/D and lymphatic vessels in the heart. Under his leadership eight phase I/II/III gene therapy trials have been conducted including two significantly positive primary endpoints in phase III gene therapy trials in the Western world (AdTK, AdIFNα). He has conducted a cardiac phase I/IIa trial and publish a significant improvement in heart perfusion with radiowater PET one year after gene therapy.
Other major contribution to Gene Therapy:
Prof. Yla-Herttuala is founder (1993) of the biotech company Ark Therapeutics Ltd (currently FinVector Ltd with ≈ 250 employees) which produces clinical GMP gene transfer vectors for several customers in EU, USA and Asia. Under his leadership Cerepro® (AdTK), Trinam® (AdVEGF), Instiladrin® (AdIFNα), OvCA® (soluble VEGF Receptor 2) and AdVEGF-D have been developed and are currently under various stages of regulatory advice, evaluation and clinical testing in EU and USA.