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Biozentrum Lectures 2011

Angiogenesis in Health and Disease

Peter Carmeliet, Director of the VIB – Vesalius Research Center, University of Leuven, Belgium
May 16, 2011, Time: 16:00, Hörsaal 1, Pharmazentrum, Klingelbergstrasse 50-70, Basel

Understanding the molecular basis of the formation of blood vessels (angiogenesis) is of great medical relevance. Indeed, insufficient angiogenesis leads to tissue ischemia, while an excess of angiogenesis promotes cancer, inflammation and other disorders. Research over the last decades has focused primarily on promoting or blocking blood vessel branching. To date, hundreds of thousands of patients have benefited from VEGF-blockers, but limited efficacy and resistance remain outstanding problems. More recent insights show also that vessels in pathological disorders, especially in cancer, are abnormal in structure and function. Emerging mechanisms of resistance against anti-angiogenic therapy, and novel strategies and molecular drug targets to overcome these challenges will be discussed. In addition, the emerging paradigm of vessel normalization as a novel therapeutic approach will be put in perspective of current anti-angiogenic therapies.

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Dr. Peter Carmeliet is Director of the VIB – Vesalius Research Center, at the University of Leuven in Belgium. He graduated as Doctor in Medicine in 1984, and completed his PhD in Medicine in 1989. During his Postdoctoral work at the Whitehead Institute, MIT in Cambridge USA, he acquired the knockout technology. After his return to Leuven in 1992, Carmeliet started his own research group with a focus on blood vessels and how they grow (angiogenesis). Carmeliet has made contributions to the understanding of angiogenesis in health and disease and discovered that the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a key player in this process. He also showed that the placental growth factor (PlGF) is a disease-restricted candidate in many angiogenic disorders. All these findings have led to the (pre)clinical development of novel therapeutic strategies for angiogenic dis¬eases, such as cancer and blindness, which are currently being evaluated in clini¬cal trials. Carmeliet also documented that VEGF plays a role in neurodegeneration, which opened new research avenues and therapeutic opportunities for patients suffering the incurable disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Thus, Carmeliet bridged two seemingly unrelated fields, angiogenesis and neurogenesis. He is cur¬rently interested in the neurovascular link.

Dr Carmeliet is elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and the German Academy of Science Leopoldina. In 2010 he was awarded Doctor Honoris Causa from the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Germany. His achievements have been recognized by several honors and awards, such as the Ernst Jung Medical Award (2010), the FWO Joseph Maisin Prize for Excellence in Fundamental Biomedical Research (2010), the ERC Advanced Research Grant (2010), the Francqui Chair, Brussels (2007, 2006), the Interbrew Baillet Latour Health Prize (2005), the Outstanding Investigator Award from the International Society of Heart Research (2002) and the Marion Barnhart Memorial Award (1995).