At the 25th Annual Meeting of The American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy in May 2022, UNC Ophthalmology Associate Professor Matt Hirsch, PhD, was among four established gene therapy researchers across the U.S. to be honored as recipients of the ASGCT’s 2022 Outstanding New Investigator Award.
At the 25th Annual Meeting of The American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy in May 2022, UNC Department of Ophthalmology Associate Professor Matt Hirsch, PhD, was among four established gene therapy researchers across the U.S. to be honored as recipients of the ASGCT’s 2022 Outstanding New Investigator Award.
Hirsch is a leading genetic engineer at UNC-Chapel Hill with a strong investigative record in using Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV) Vectors to treat rare degenerative hereditary diseases via therapeutic gene delivery and gene editing.
At UNC’s Gene Therapy Center (GTC), Hirsch has been a long-time lead investigator of collaborative, cross-disciplinary translational studies of AAV Vectors to treat a range of ocular genetic disorders, such as hereditary lysosomal storage diseases leading to corneal blindness and retinal disease. His investigative contributions helped transform the Carolina Eye Research Institute (CERI) into a world-renowned cell and gene therapy center that houses large-scale, cross-disciplinary clinical trials to promote ophthalmic scientific innovation in restoring and preventing loss of eyesight. At the GTC, the Hirsch Lab has also developed targeted genetic therapy for treating muscular dystrophies and evaluated AAV large gene delivery contexts in disease models of dysferlinopathy and hemophilia A.
Hirsch has co-founded three UNC GTC-affiliated start-ups, including RainBio, a biotechnology company focused on restoring vision in patients who have experienced corneal blindness by replacing the missing Mucopolysaccharidosis type 1 (MPS1) gene via (AAV) Vector gene therapy. Over secured seven U.S. patents, led 24 federally and industry-funded investigations, published 10 textbooks and chapters, authored 45 refereed articles, and mentored eight PhD candidates.
Within the gene delivery and cell therapy research community, Hirsch and his lab colleagues are known for their investigative development of integrating novel and existing approaches to exploit host DNA repair pathways for intracellular large transgene reconstruction. Their work enables others to pursue further identification of host DNA repair proteins and pathways necessary for episomal genetic engineering at the basic science level, toward advancing generation of safer, more efficient clinical reagents in lab experimentation and testing.
Annual winners of the ASGCT’s Outstanding New Investigator (ONI) Award are leaders in academia, research foundations, government and industry. At the May 2022 ASGCT Annual Meeting, the contributions of each award winner to the field of gene and cell therapy were recognized, and each awardee presented a plenary lecture highlighting their scientific accomplishments that led to their Award.