Seppo Yla-Herttuala (Kuopio)

Dr. Yla-Herttuala is a world leader in cardiovascular gene therapy for atherosclerosis and ischemic diseases. His team was the first to use adenovirus-mediated gene transfer to human arteries already in 1995. Since then, he has conducted eight phase 1-3 clinical trials in cardiovascular gene therapy. He is also the originator of the concept of epigenetherapy. His group has been widely recognized for basic biology, translational and epigenetic research of the vascular endothelial growth factors, especially focusing on the new members of the VEGF family. Previously he worked with oxidized LDL and atherosclerosis and was the first to show that OxLDL exists in human atherosclerotic lesions. His list of publications includes over 500 scientific articles.

Giulio Cossu (Manchester)

Giulio Cossu is the Constance Thornley Professor of Regenerative Medicine at Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, University of Manchester (UK) and  BIH Visiting Professor at Charité Medical Faculty and  Max Delbrück Center in Berlin. Germany.  Professor Cossu has been working for many years on skeletal myogenesis and on the development of cell therapy protocols with stem cells for muscular dystrophy.

He showed that neural tube and dorsal ectoderm activate, through different Wnts, distinct myogenic programs in epaxial and hypaxial somitic progenitors, and first  described myogenic cell heterogeneity. 

He developed pre-clinical models of cell therapy for muscular dystrophies using mesoangioblasts, vessel associated myogenic progenitors, identified in the striated muscle of different species. This led to a first in man trial whose protocol is currently being optimised through preclinical work and novel clinical trials.

Alicja Józkowicz (Kraków)

Alicja Józkowicz is a professor of biological sciences at the Faculty of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Biotechnology of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. She graduated in 1991 and obtained her PhD in 1997 from the same University. Her research group uses biochemical, molecular and genetic approaches for the analysis of cell differentiation and aging, with a spotlight on cell-cell interactions within the hematopoietic and vascular niches. The current research is focused on heterogeneity of endothelial cells and their mutual crosstalk with the hematopoietic stem cells. The second area of interest is heme metabolism, its role in the regulation of gene expression, and its influence on cell aging and genome integrity. Project: www.nicheworks.eu

Markus Ruegg (Basel)

Markus Ruegg is Professor of Neurobiology at the Biozentrum, University of Basel, Switzerland. His scientific interest is the development and the maintenance of the neuromuscular system, which is documented in more than 150 publications. In recent years, his research focuses on signaling pathways important for muscle maintenance and on the development of therapeutic strategies for a rare, congenital muscular dystrophy, called MDC1A or LAMA2 MD. In 2000, Dr. Ruegg helped to set-up MyoContract, now called Santhera Pharmaceuticals Ltd, a biotech company dedicated to develop therapies for neuromuscular diseases. In 2019, Santhera and the Ruegg laboratory started a collaboration that aims to develop an AAV-based gene therapy for MDC1A/LAMA2 MD. 

Link:  http://www.biozentrum.unibas.ch/rueegg

Twitter: @Rueglabg

Serena Zacchigna (Trieste)

Serena Zacchigna received her MD at the University of Trieste, Italy in 2000.  After her PhD at the International School for Advanced Studies (ISAS), Italy, she moved to Peter Carmeliet Laboratory at VIB in Leuven (Belgium) as a Marie-Curie post-doctoral research fellow from 2006-2008 to work on the neurovascular link. In 2009 she returned to Trieste, where she first joined the Molecular Medicine Laboratory at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and then established her own research group in 2016. She is currently Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Trieste and leads the Cardiovascular Biology Group at the ICGEB. She is member of the Regional Ethical Committee and she represents the ICGEB at the UN Agency Committee for Bioethics, which serves as a key inter-agency mechanism for sharing information between intergovernmental organizations dealing with bioethical issues, with particular interest in the regulatory and ethical aspects governing the use of gene therapy, genome editing and cell therapy in the various countries.

Her work focuses on the cross-talk between the various cell types residing in the heart during development and disease. In particular, she is dissecting the molecular mechanisms mediating the communication between endothelial cells and cardiomyocytes, with the ultimate goal of promoting effective neo-vascularization following heart ischemia. 

Piotr Trzonkowski (Gdańsk)

Piotr Trzonkowski, professor of Immunology, actively involved in the clinical research with T regulatory cells and mechanisms of immunosuppression for over 20 years. His group developed and applied first-in-man protocols of the treatment with expanded T regulatory cells.

He was graduated from the Medical University of Gdańsk in 1999. In 2003 he defended Ph.D. thesis on the suppressive mechanisms in human immunosenescence which included his first works on T regulatory cells. From 2004, he had worked at the Oxford University on the immune background of the depleting therapy with alemtuzumab in kidney transplant recipients. He was also involved there in the work on T regulatory cells biology. These studies were continued after getting back to Poland as PI in the Department of Medical Immunology, Medical University of Gdańsk and also as a visiting professor in the Department of Surgery, University of Chicago. The trials on clinical application of T regulatory cells supervised by prof. Trzonkowski covered graft versus host disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and pancreatic islets allotransplantation. In 2015, he set up a spin-off PolTREG in order to commercialize the  therapy. His group conducts also a research in novel approaches to cellular therapy in autoimmune and malignant diseases in man, synthesis of immunosuppressive small-particle drug candidates and posttransplant laboratory diagnostics in allograft recipients. In 2017, he has been awarded with the highest scientific award in Poland, the Foundation for Polish Science Prize in the life and earth sciences in 2017 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DrzGVNxjj8, https://www.fnp.org.pl/prof-piotr-trzonkowski-laureat-nagrody-fnp-2017/)

Dominika Nowis (Warszawa)

Professor Dominika Nowis, M.D., Ph.D. is a deputy head of the Laboratory of Experimental Medicine, Medical University of Warsaw.  She graduated with honors from the 2nd Medical Faculty of the Medical University of Warsaw in 2003. In 2005 she defended with honors her Ph.D. thesis on targeting cytoprotective mechanisms induced in cancer cells exposed to the photodynamic therapy. From 2005 till 2014 she worked at the Department of Immunology, Medical University of Warsaw, first under the supervision on Prof. Marek Jakobisiak, next – Prof. Jakub Golab. In 2011 she obtained her D.Sc. (habilitation) for the cycle of publications on the mechanisms of intracellular protein degradation and their role in the development of human pathologies. In 2016 she got the professor title from the President of the Republic of Poland. Prof. Nowis gained her research experience at  Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, USA, MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, Oxford University, Oxford, UK, University College Dublin, Ireland, Indiana University School of Medicine, USA and University of Verona, Italy. She is an author or co-author of over 70 publications published in internationally recognized scientific journals such as Nature Comm, PLoS Medicine, Am J Pathol, Blood, Haematologica, Oncogene, Cancer Res, CA: Cancer Journal for Clinicians, Clin Cancer Res. Her publications have already been cited over 4,000 times, her H-index equals 26. For her scientific achievements Prof. Nowis has been awarded with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland habilitation award, Ministry of Science and Higher Education 3-year fellowship for outstanding young researchers, L’Oreal Poland for Women and Science Ph.D. fellowship, Foundation for Polish Science START fellowship, and POLITYKA weekly journal “Stay with us” scientific award among many others. In 2012 Prof. Nowis was awarded with 3rd place in the first „Super-talents in medicine” contest. She was a member of the first Young Researcher Council in the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. Prof. Nowis considers as her major scientific achievements the discovery of the cardiotoxic effects of the proteasome inhibitors as well as statin-dependent decreased glucose uptake by cancer cells and cells involved in carbohydrates homeostasis. For the past few years she has been working on the development of research techniques to study antitumor immune responses and finally settled in the field of oncoimmunology. Prof. Nowis finds passion in teaching. Till 2020 Prof. Nowis has supervised 8 successfully defended Ph.D. theses. For over 15 years she teaches the complete course of immunology to the medical students.