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Deborah Gill

PhD, BSc (Hons)

Professor of Gene Medicine

Gene Therapy for Lung diseases

Deborah Gill is based in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford where she is Professor of Gene Medicine and Co-Director of the Gene Medicine Research Group.

Deborah completed her PhD in molecular microbiology at the University of Warwick, studying cell division proteins in E.coli, during which she discovered the  defining bacterial member of the ABC (ATP-Binding Cassette) superfamily of proteins. In 1990, Deborah moved to the University of Oxford, to undertake post-doctoral research under the mentorship of Professor Chris Higgins at the Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine, investigating human ABC proteins including the Multi-Drug Resistance p-glycoprotein and CFTR, the protein responsible for Cystic Fibrosis (CF).

Together with Dr Steve Hyde, Deborah's research began to evaluate gene therapy for genetic diseases, focusing on a potential treatment for Cystic Fibrosis lung disease. Two clinical trials in CF  patients were undertaken in collaboration with Sir Martin Evans, and Professors Bill Colledge and Alan Cuthbert at Cambridge University, demonstrating proof of principle for non-viral (plasmid-based) CF gene therapy in the upper airways.

In 2001, Deborah was a founding member of the UK CF Gene Therapy Consortium, joining together the Gene Medicine Research Group, University of Oxford; the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh; and, the Department of Gene Therapy, National Heart & Lung Institute, Imperial College London. This consortium of scientists and clinicians continues to work towards making gene therapy a reality for patients with CF. The Consortium completed the world's largest gene therapy trial - a phase llb study involving 136 participants - delivering an aerosol of non-viral gene therapy at monthly intervals for 12 months. The study showed a clinically relevant improvement in lung function in those receiving gene therapy, compared with those receiving a placebo treatment. However, more efficient gene delivery strategies are needed.

The success of gene therapy to introduce genes into cells and gene editing to correct genetic mutations, ultimately depends on efficient delivery of genetic material to human cells. Much of Deborah's current research is focused on development of Lentiviral and AAV vectors for translation of new gene therapies to the clinic. In addition to targeting genetic lung diseases Deborah's research group is evaluating whether the airways can be used as a 'protein factory' to make therapeutic proteins and antibodies.

As well as undertaking translational research, Deborah is involved in many aspects of graduate student mentoring and training. She has supervised many DPhil and Masters students to completion of their post-graduate degrees and is currently the Chair of Oxford University's Graduate School Committee for the Medical Sciences Division.