Professor Laura Ferraiuolo

I studied Biotechnology at the University of Milan, Italy. During my degree I completed a 2-year internship at the Mario Negri Institute under the supervision of Dr Caterina Bendotti, where I developed a deep interest in motor neuron disease (MND). 

In 2005 I joined the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Sheffield, UK, and won the MND Association Prize studentship that funded my PhD under the supervision of Professors Dame Pamela Shaw and Janine Kirby. During my PhD I used laser capture microdissection and microarray analysis to interrogate the pathways involved in the response of motor neurons to stress, from expression of mutant SOD1 to intense exercise (Journal of Neuroscience 2007 and Journal of Neurochemistry 2009).

I was then awarded the Peake Fellowship to investigate the crosstalk between motor neurons and astrocytes in MND using microarray analysis and cellular models (Brain 2011) in Sheffield at the Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN). I had the great opportunity to deepen my knowledge on glia and gene therapy in Prof Kaspar’s lab in Columbus, Ohio, USA from 2012 to 2014 funded by the ERC as a Marie Curie Fellow. In Professor Kaspar’s lab I led on the development of new cell models to study MND in vitro (Neuron 2014 and PNAS 2014) and explore different routes of delivery for gene therapy clinical trials in MND (Molecular Therapy 2013) and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) (Molecular Therapy 2014).

At the end of 2014 I came back to Sheffield to complete my Marie Curie Fellowship and the study investigating the role of oligodendrocytes in MND (PNAS 2016).

Since the end of my Fellowship in 2015, I have established my research team at SITraN, where I am now Professor in Translational Neurobiology. My team focusses on modelling the role of human glial cells in neurodegenerative diseases (EBioMedicine 2019) and ageing (Aging Cell 2021), with the aim to identify new therapeutic targets for gene therapy or small molecule approaches. To optimise our efforts on the translational pathway, we work with several industrial partners, which fund some of our studies, along with the Research Councils and Charities.

My research efforts were recognised with the international 2019 Paulo Gontijo Award, which I received in Sidney, Australia, during the 30th International Symposium on ALS/MND.

As part of a UK national effort to boost the development and implementation of advanced therapies, I am the skills and training Lead for the Gene Therapy Innovation Manufacturing Centre (GTIMC) and I have set up an MSc Course in Advanced Cell and Gene Therapies, which I co-lead with Professor Mimoun Azzouz.

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