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Dr. Gergana Galabova heads the Neurodegeneration Department at AFFiRiS AG since January 2016. After completing her veterinary medical studies in 2000 in Bulgaria, she was awarded a three years postgraduate scholarship by the Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research (ÖAD). In 2003, following her doctoral dissertation, she joined the Department of Microbiology, Immunobiology & Genetics at the University of Vienna as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow. Her research was focused on the in vivo and in vitro deciphering of the Raf/Mek/ERK pathway, and in particular, on the role of B-Raf in the myelination during postnatal central nervous system development. She has authored a number of scientific publications, patents, and a textbook chapter. In 2009 she joined the Research & Development team of AFFIRIS AG as a senior scientist. She brings a broad scientific expertise and overall experience in coordination of preclinical proof-of concept studies and their translation into clinical development.
Despite intensive research and increasing understanding of the underlying pathology, neurodegenerative disorders, and in particular Alzheimer's- (AD) and Parkinson's (PD) disease are still categorized as chronic diseases with unmet medical needs. In the last two decades immunotherapy has been considered as novel and promising approach for their prevention and/or treatment. And in fact, a number of pre-clinical proof-of-concept studies (POCs) successfully demonstrated the potential of passive and active immunotherapy to interfere with the disease, especially in terms of disease modification and slowing the disease progression. Nevertheless, a complete and efficient translation of novel immunotherapies from animal models into human still faces a number of challenges. In addition, immunotherapy, especially the active vaccination against self-proteins, such as aBeta or aSynuclein, which are believed to play a crucial role in the disease onset (AD and PD, respectively), raises questions regarding potential autoimmunity. Thus, the development of active immunotherapy targeting self-proteins is still controversial. The AFFITOME® technology is an innovative solution to this problem. It gives the opportunity to avoid autoimmunity, despite targeting self-proteins by so called functional mimotopes or AFFITOPEs®. These are the antigenic vaccine components, which mimic the original epitopes of the target protein and are able to generate target specific antibodies. AFFITOPE®- and mimotope-induced antibodies are designed to bind preferentially to the aggregated pathological form of the target protein. AFFiRiS completed several Phase I studies in the field of neurodegeneration and confirmed the technology as safe. However, larger outcome studies are required for confirming the efficacy of the AFFITOPE®-based immunotherapy approach.