The European Research Council, ERC, has awarded a third consecutive ERC Advanced Grant to Academy Professor Seppo Ylä-Herttuala at the University of Eastern Finland. Awarded for the years 2020–2025, the ERC Advanced Grant is highly competitive, making it one of the most esteemed grants in Europe. The grant amounts to 2.5 million euros. It is highly unusual for the ERC Advanced Grant to be awarded to the same researcher three consecutive times, and no one in Finland has achieved this before.
Biological bypass with novel growth factor molecules
The grant was awarded for research addressing severe coronary artery disease and heart failure. The project seeks to develop novel vascular growth factor molecules. These molecules enable what is known as biological bypass, which seeks to improve circulation in an ischemic heart and to enhance its metabolism and energy supply. The project uses advanced catheter methods by which gene delivery to the heart muscle is performed locally both from the inner lining of heart ventricles and through retrograde delivery, i.e., by cleverly using of the heart’s own venous system as a delivery route.
The project will develop novel gene transfer vectors and test them first in cell cultures and later also in mouse models. Final preclinical testing will be carried out in pig models of myocardial ischemia and heart failure under conditions that fully mimic hospital cardiology laboratory settings. The animals will also be studied using state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) methods. The imaging studies will be performed in Kuopio University Hospital by using as a tracer, e.g., rapidly decaying radiowater that will be manufactured in the hospital’s own cyclotrone.
This type of research and development is unique in the world. The A.I. Virtanen Institute for Molecular Sciences at the University of Eastern Finland and the Kuopio University Hospital Heart Centre can, without a doubt, be described as global trailblazers in the fields of biological bypass and the development of gene therapy for heart failure. The mission of this line of research is to launch phase I clinical studies at the Kuopio University Hospital Heart Centre in patients with severe coronary artery disease and heart failure. The ERC Advanced Grant is a highly significant recognition of the long-term gene therapy research carried out in Kuopio.
For further information, please contact:
Academy Professor Seppo Ylä-Herttuala, University of Eastern Finland, A.I. Virtanen Institute, tel. +358 40 355 2075, seppo.ylaherttuala(at)uef.fi
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