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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Target Validation in the Nervous System using Herpes Simplex Viral Vectors

The recent sequencing of the human genome has produced a plethora of potential novel drug targets and candidate genes for gene therapy. New drug discovery using large-scale functional genomics approaches, however, faces the major problem of target validation. Traditionally this has been achieved by pharmacology, using specific antagonists and agonists, or by using transgenic animals, particularly knock-out mice. However, these approaches have considerable drawbacks, being extremely time-consuming, laborious and expensive. This is particularly the case if large numbers of potential target genes are to be tested.


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By Dr James Palmer, Senior Scientist, and Dr Robert Coffin, Chief Scientific Officer, at BioVex Ltd Dr James Palmer joined BioVex Ltd, a gene delivery and therapeutic vaccine company, in September 1999. He was previously a post-doctoral fellow at University College London in the academic laboratory of BioVex's Founding Scientist and current Research Director, Dr Robert Coffin.
Dr Palmer is currently a Senior Scientist developing herpes simplex viral vector systems for gene delivery to the nervous system for target validation purposes. Prior to this, he obtained his PhD in Molecular Neuroscience from the University of Cambridge working in the Neurobiology Division of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, and his BSc in Pharmacology from the University of Bristol.

Dr Robert Coffin is a Founding Scientist at Biovex Ltd, Lecturer in Virology and Gene Therapy at University College London (UCL) and Honorary Senior Lecturer at The Institute of Child Health. Following a PhD in Virology at Imperial College, Dr Coffin moved to UCL to develop herpes simplex virus (HSV) based vectors and to study the molecular basis of HSV latency.

During the course of this work - which led to the foundation of Biovex Ltd where he is CSO - vectors were developed that are useful for studying, and potentially treating, neurological disease and for the immune-based treatment of various diseases. Dr Coffin is a world recognised expert in the field of HSV vectorology and latency, and has authored numerous scientific publications.


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Dr James Palmer
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Dr Robert Coffin
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