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Department of Biochemistry

Gene Therapy: Shielded, Retargeted Adenovirus

The goal of this research direction is to develop the technologies for the body to produce its own combination of therapeutic proteins — when and where they are needed. To achieve this, we have developed a gene delivery platform based on special versions of adenovirus.

These adenoviral vectors are specific, as they can be programmed to use any cellular surface receptor of choice for uptake and infection. They are safe, as they can have no viral genes at all, cannot proliferate, and their DNA does not integrate into the genome. They have a very large genome (35 kB), and thus can encode multiple genes at the same time. Finally, they are covered by a designed protein shield that hides them from interacting with the immune system and other components of the body.

To achieve cell-specific infections, we make use of our protein engineering technologies, especially our DARPin technology of creating binding proteins, with which we can very rapidly create different «adapters» for the same virus. The adapters bind extremely tightly to the virus and thus confer new exchangeable targeting specificities. These adapters have been directed to a range of tumor cells, stromal cells and cells of the immune system, with the portfolio constantly increasing.