Ali Salanti

Ali Salanti


Member of:

  • VAR2CSA team


Combating disease and helping people in most need through my translational research, is the fuel for my passion for research. Early in my career, I focused my research on exploring the molecular mechanisms behind parasite sequestration in the human placenta with the perspective of aiding malaria sick women with a prophylactic or therapeutic compound. I was the first to define the antigen (VAR2CSA) responsible for malaria in pregnant women. Since my publication of VAR2CSA, this gene is recognized as the main vaccine candidate and the vaccine has completed phase 1 clinical trials and is being transition to phase 2 trials. During this work it became evident that recombinant soluble antigens are not good as vaccines. It was also evident that that the HPV vaccine is an extraordinary exception. In the understanding of this we have developed a virus like particle platform that can position any antigen onto the surface of particle of the same size as HPV. We are now using this platform for making vaccines against HER2+ breast cancer, Influenza and COVID19.For the latter work we finalized a clinical phase 1 and an industrial partner has completed phase 3 trials. The vaccine work has been supported by personal grants from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a Semper Ardens grant from Carlsberg.

A hallmark of my scientific career was the seminal finding that the carbohydrate molecule the malaria parasites bind to in the placenta (ofCS) is also present on all tested tumors and absent from normal tissue, and that we can use the recombinant malaria protein (VAR2CSA) to target cancer in vitro and in vivo. We have both developed drug conjugates and immunotherapies based on VAR2CSA and demonstrated the capacity to effectively knock down tumors in a wide range of animal models.  Now we have antibodies with similar specificity and I and my team is fully dedicated to explore the obvious potential in targeting ofCS in cancer, and truly believe that this could have high clinical impact for the patients at most need! Next step is to finalize preclinical drug development and move the testing forward to clinical trials. For this research, I have been awarded the very prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator grant as well as two ERC PoC grants to pursue commercial aspects. Over the last few years I have established 4 companies engaged in clinical development. At UCPH I am heading a lab with 30 people working with me with a high number of post doc employees, and in the past I have successfully taken more than 20 students through a PhD program. I have published 140 publications in these areas of research and submitted 8 patent applications where 7 has been issued.

I have been awarded the KFJ preclinical devleopment prize. The "Industry prize" from the Danish Academy of Science and the Medicines for People award. in 2023 I was awared Distinguished innovator by Novo Nordisk Foundation

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