We welcome the appointment of Professor Chris Shaw to the Hugh Green Chair in Translational Neuroscience in the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland.
In his inaugural lecture, “Gene therapy strategies for motor neuron disease“, Professor Shaw discussed the remarkable progress recently achieved with a pioneering gene therapy delivery method for patients with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). SMA is characterised by the loss of motor neurons, or nerve cells, in the spinal cord and is classified as a motor neuron disease. This progress has sparked a proliferation of gene therapy programmes for many neurodegenerative disorders. Professor Shaw’s team has led the discovery of several genes responsible for motor neuron disease (MND) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and has recently launched a spinout gene therapy company. Professor Shaw also discussed current approaches for gene therapies for MND and FTD, with the aim of finding more effective therapies for people with these devastating neurodegenerative disorders.
Professor Shaw trained as a Neurologist in New Zealand before attending Cambridge, UK on a Wellcome Trust Fellowship and moving to King’s College London in 1995. He is Director of the Maurice Wohl Clinical Neuroscience Institute and established the UK Dementia Research Institute Centre at King’s College. His research team has discovered more ALS/MND and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) genes than any other laboratory in the world, enabling gene testing for patients and at-risk family members. They have generated a large number of stem cell and transgenic mouse models that characterise key features of the human disease and have revealed important mechanistic insights. Their focus for the future is to develop gene therapies for a wide range of neurodegenerative disorders using their recent research advances.
Most recently Professor Chris Shaw and colleagues established a spinout gene therapy company AviadoBio, which uses AAV vectors to gene supplement and knockdown for neurodegenerative disorders. Award highlights include the “Forbes Norris Award” for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Care and Research (2009), “Sheila Essey Prize” for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Research (2012) and “Kea World Class New Zealander Award” (2019). Professor Shaw is clinically active, running an ALS patient clinic at King’s College Hospital and leading clinical trials of advanced gene therapies.