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The European Society of Gene and Cell Therapy honored the UNC School of Medicine’s Jude Samulski, PhD, co-founder and chief science officer of AskBio, with its inaugural Founder’s Award.

The European Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ESGCT) Founders Award was given to Jude Samulski, PhD, professor in the UNC Department of Pharmacology, for his contribution to the development of engineered recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vectors, which carry specific gene therapies into cells to correct faulty genes.

Samulski’s work on AAV began 40 years ago as a graduate student at the University of Florida, and his breakthroughs since then – including over the decades at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he was the first director of the UNC Gene Therapy Center – have led to three AAV-based gene therapies available for patients and other therapies in various stages of development. Read about AAV’s profound impact on patients with muscular dystrophy.

“ESGCT created the Founders Award this year to mark the Society’s 30th anniversary,” said Professor Hildegard Büning, ESGCT Board President. “The award highlights benchmark milestones in gene and cell therapy. The Founders Award 2022 recognizes the first cloning of an AAV plasmid, which Dr. Samulski and his team accomplished in 1982. That tremendous breakthrough helped make gene therapy a reality and remains at the core of the field today, making this milestone a natural choice for this inaugural honor.”

Samulski is a former member of the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC), a committee tasked with assisting the FDA with gene therapy clinical trial approvals in the United States, and he serves as a gene therapy consultant to the FDA. In 2008, Samulski was recognized by the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT) with the inaugural Outstanding Achievement Award. He played a central role in advancing gene therapies into human clinical trials for hemophilia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, giant axonal neuropathy, Pompe disease, congestive heart failure and others. He is the inventor of nearly 500 patented technologies related to AAV technology.

“I’m overwhelmed with this acknowledgment and humbled by the thought that ESGCT has considered my early research to represent such a prestigious milestone for the society,” Samulski said. “I’m grateful to receive the ESGCT Founders Award during these exciting times for gene therapy and honored to be the first scientist to receive this recognition.”