Two New Research Institutes in the Bay Area

|May 7|magazine20 min read

SAN FRANCISCO, May 7, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Gladstone Institutes is launching two new biomedical research institutes to broaden its impact on unsolved diseases. The first is the Gladstone Institute of Virology, led by Melanie Ott, MD, PhD, which will study the current coronavirus, as well as search for novel therapies against future infectious diseases. The second is the result of a close partnership with UC San Francisco (UCSF); the Gladstone-UCSF Institute of Genomic Immunology, led by Alexander Marson, MD, PhD, will bring together genomics and immunology to develop next-generation cell therapies.

The two institutes are an evolution of the former Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, which was led by Warner Greene, MD, PhD, since its establishment in 1991 and made significant contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

"As the joint Gladstone-UCSF search committee met with eminent scientists from around the globe to find a new director for the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, Melanie and Alex stood out as exceptional candidates in terms of their research accomplishments and their scientific vision," says Gladstone President Deepak Srivastava, MD, who chaired the search committee. "We realized they represent complementary, rather than alternative, directions for the future of Gladstone."

"They are both remarkable scientists," he adds. "We are honored to have them join our scientific leadership team and we look forward to the discoveries that will emerge from these new institutes."

The Gladstone Institute of Virology will focus on how viruses interface with human host cells to cause disease and how to intervene in that process. Ott's goal is to identify critical pathways that are common to human pathogenic viruses as a way to develop innovative treatments.

"Contrary to the current strategy of combining several drugs to treat one virus, we want to develop one drug against multiple viruses," says Ott, senior investigator at Gladstone and professor in the UCSF Department of Medicine. "As antibiotic resistance becomes an increasingly urgent problem, we will also delve into how we can use viruses as therapeutics, which involves using viruses against themselves or to fight bacteria."

Ott and her colleagues in the institute are concentrating their immediate efforts on the study of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This work will continue to contribute important insights into the current pandemic through the development of rapid diagnostic, prevention, and treatment strategies, as well as help be better prepared for future coronavirus outbreaks and other emerging infections.

The Gladstone-UCSF Institute of Genomic Immunology will combine cutting-edge genomic technologies with gene editing and synthetic biology to better understand the genetic control of human immune cells and develop novel cell-based immunotherapies. Manipulation of the immune system holds great promise not only to treat cancer, but also for infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and maybe even neurologic conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

"These rapidly advancing fields are starting to converge in ways that are too big for any single lab to take on," says Marson, senior investigator at Gladstone and associate professor in the Departments of Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology at the UCSF School of Medicine. "The impetus to start a new institute was the realization that we need to create an ecosystem to bring together people with different perspectives to think about transformative opportunities for how patients can be treated in the future."

Marson's institute will have lab space at Gladstone, adjacent to UCSF's Mission Bay campus, as well as at the University's Parnassus Heights campus, creating a unified community across the two campuses.

"The importance of pursuing advances in virology and immunology for human health has never been more clear, and we at UCSF applaud Gladstone's visionary leadership in establishing these two new institutes," says UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS. "Under Melanie and Alex's excellent leadership, these research institutes—including the first-ever Gladstone-UCSF institute—will complement and enhance UCSF's strengths in immunology and cell therapy, and will build on Gladstone's established expertise in the host-pathogen interface and gene editing technologies. Our long-standing partnership leverages the best of both institutions."

About the Search Committee

The joint Gladstone-UCSF search committee that recruited Melanie Ott and Alexander Marson was chaired by Deepak Srivastava. Other members included Katerina Akassoglou, Warner Greene, Todd McDevitt, Katherine Pollard, and Leor Weinberger from Gladstone, as well as Max Krummel, Susan Lynch, Tiffany Scharschmidt, Anita Sil, and Julie Zikherman from UCSF.

About Melanie Ott

A native of Germany, Melanie Ott, MD, PhD, is the director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology, a senior investigator at Gladstone Institutes, and a professor of medicine at UCSF.

Ott is passionate about using viruses to find fundamental new biology in host cells. She has made important discoveries about how viruses—including the hepatitis C virus and Zika—hijack human cells, and has contributed to efforts to eradicate HIV by gaining insight into viral transcriptional control. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, she pivoted the focus of her team and spearheaded the effort to establish a dedicated airborne pathogen BSL-3 lab to enable work on live SARS-CoV-2.

Prior to joining Gladstone in 2002, Ott started her own research group at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany, working closely with Nobel laureate Harald zur Hausen. She is a trained neurologist with an MD from the University of Frankfurt/Main in Germany. She transitioned to basic virology research during the AIDS crisis, earning a PhD in molecular medicine from the Elmezzi Graduate School in Manhasset, New York.

Ott has received several honors, including the Young Researcher Award at the European Conference on Experimental AIDS Research and the Hellman Award. She is a member of the Association of American Physicians and a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. She is a recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Public Service from UCSF for her work as the founder and co-chair of the student outreach committee at Gladstone. Ott also received the California Life Sciences Association's Biotechnology Educator Pantheon Award for establishing the PUMAS (Promoting Underrepresented Minorities Advancing in the Sciences) internship program at Gladstone, which seeks to increase diversity in STEM.

About Alexander Marson

Alexander Marson, MD, PhD, is the director of the Gladstone-UCSF Institute of Genomic Immunology, a senior investigator at Gladstone Institutes, and an associate professor in the Departments of Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology at UCSF.

Marson is interested in how DNA controls the behavior of cells in the human immune system. He uses the power of CRISPR technology to genetically engineer cells to fight cancer, autoimmune diseases, and infectious diseases.

He completed his undergraduate studies at Harvard University, and earned an MPhil in biological sciences from Cambridge. He earned his PhD at Whitehead Institute at MIT, where he worked with mentors Rick Young and Rudolf Jaenisch on transcriptional control of regulatory T cells and embryonic stem cells.

After completing his MD at Harvard Medical School and an internship and residency at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, Marson joined UCSF in 2012 to complete clinical work as an infectious diseases fellow. He started his lab as a Sandler Faculty Fellow, before joining the faculty at UCSF and becoming scientific director of biomedicine at the Innovative Genomics Institute. He is also a Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator and member of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.

About Gladstone Institutes

To ensure our work does the greatest good, Gladstone Institutes focuses on conditions with profound medical, economic, and social impact—unsolved diseases. Gladstone is an independent, nonprofit life science research organization that uses visionary science and technology to overcome disease. It has an academic affiliation with the University of California, San Francisco.

About UCSF

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is exclusively focused on the health sciences and is dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. UCSF Health, which serves as UCSF's primary academic medical center, includes top-ranked specialty hospitals and other clinical programs, and has affiliations throughout the Bay Area. Learn more at ucsf.edu, or see our Fact Sheet.

Sources

Gladstone Institutes: Megan McDevitt | [email protected] | 415.734.2019

UCSF: Pete Farley[email protected] | 415.502.4608

 

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SOURCE Gladstone Institutes