Professor Michael Linden to head Pfizer's new gene therapy research centre in London

Expert from King's College London has spent more than two decades researching use of adeno-associated viruses to transport medicines into the body

Michael Linden

A leading gene therapy scientist will head Pfizer's new genetics medicines research centre in London, UK.

Professor Michael Linden has spent more than 20 years researching the potential of adeno-associated viruses to transport genetic medicines into the body. Instead of delivering treatment through more commonly used small molecule or biologic medicines, the gene-based treatment would be held within an inactive virus, taking advantage of the natural ability of viruses to enter cells. In theory, the treatment would then be produced inside the patient’s body by the cells, removing the need for the patient to repeatedly take medication.

Professor Linden explained: 'Gene therapy is the term used to describe a treatment that alters or fixes an anomaly in the genes that cause illness. Unlike many other medicines, gene therapies have the potential to fix the root cause of illness, effectively offering a cure as opposed to managing the cause or lessening the symptoms. I am excited to join Pfizer’s Genetic Medicines Institute full-time where I will have the opportunity to continue to work in collaboration with my former colleagues at King’s College London, as well as other academic partners, in order to further research and ideally generate potential new medicines in this important area.'

This is of particular importance in rare diseases where more than 80% have a genetic root. Such diseases affect 3.5 million people in the UK but less than 5% have any approved therapy.

Professor Linden has been supporting Pfizer in this area for 11 months on a secondment from King’s College London, but is now joining the company full-time. His core focus will be to evaluate the viability of producing effective, clinical grade gene therapy viruses at speed and scale. His team will also be actively examining the infrastructure behind gene therapy development, with the aim of adding insights to existing protocols and considerations. In addition, the Genetic Medicines Institute will develop certain gene therapy pipeline projects in Pfizer’s portfolio.

Prior to joining Pfizer, Professor Linden was a Professor of Virology at King's College London Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine and Director of the University College London (UCL) Gene Therapy Consortium. He trained in Molecular Virology at Cornell University Medical College, New York before moving to Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.