Chancellor Michael F. Collins (center) joins (from left) Guangping Gao, PhD; P.J. “Chuck” Chen; Yuet Chai; and Terence R. Flotte, MD, at an event announcing a $2 million gift from the Horae Oriental Shenzhen Investment Company of Guangdong, China, and the renaming of the UMMS Gene Therapy Center to the Horae (红瑞) Gene Therapy Center in recognition of the gift.
The Gene Therapy Center at UMass Medical School, a global leader in adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapy, has received a $2 million endowment from the Horae Oriental Shenzhen Investment Company of Guangdong, China, Chancellor Michael F. Collins has announced. In recognition of the gift, the Gene Therapy Center has been named the Horae (红瑞) Gene Therapy Center.
“The field of AAV gene therapy is attracting significant attention around the world and our scientists at the Gene Therapy Center are at the forefront of its discovery and development,” said Chancellor Collins. “This gift will support our translational research into therapies for diseases that include cystic fibrosis, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, lysosomal storage diseases, retinal and macular degeneration, and other genetic diseases.”
Horae Oriental is a private equity investment company focused on developing the life sciences, medical research, medical education and medical care in Shenzhen, China.
Guangping Gao, PhD, a top AAV researcher who has played a key role in the discovery and characterization of new AAV serotypes, is the director of the Horae (红瑞) Gene Therapy Center & Vector Core. Dr. Gao, the Penelope Booth Rockwell Professor in Biomedical Research, professor of microbiology & physiological systems and scientific director of the UMMS-China Program Office, said researchers at UMMS have a long history as pioneers in the field of AAV gene therapy.
“We are well known for the development of high quality AAV vectors for both academic researchers and industrial pharmaceutical companies around the world,” Gao said. “This gift will fuel our continuing discoveries and allow us to further expand our research. It will help us to translate many exciting preclinical discoveries and basic research into human clinical trials.”
“As a leading capital management group in China, we are not only seeking business opportunities in the area of life sciences, but we are also committed to scientific research,” said Yuet Chai, chairman of China Horae Capital Management Group, the holding company of Horae Oriental. “We greatly admire the world-class scientific achievements of UMass Medical School and are most honored to present this donation."
Terence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor of Medical Education, executive deputy chancellor, provost and dean of the School of Medicine, was the principal investigator for the first use of recombinant AAV in humans, using the vector in cystic fibrosis trials beginning in 1995 before shifting his emphasis to alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic cause of emphysema. Dr. Flotte’s studies established important safety data and contributed seminal observations regarding the molecular mechanisms of rAAV persistence and immune response in humans.
“Our Gene Therapy Center has also provided a platform technology to allow disease-focused researchers to directly translate knowledge about the genetic basis of diseases like ALS and Huntington’s disease into potential therapies for those diseases,” Flotte said. “The impact of this gift is multiplied by how thoroughly the center is interconnected with the RNA Therapeutics Institute and clinical departments like neurology and pediatrics.”
P.J. “Chuck” Chen, the CEO of the China Horae Group, said, “Our partnership with UMMS will be a perfect model of international collaboration between universities and companies, especially for the United States and China. A collaborative relationship between an academic research institution and a financial organization will generate great results beneficial to people, industry and science. We are looking forward to working with UMMS on developing biomedical markets in China for the long run.”