About the Department

Evanthia Galanis, M.D., of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, is the chair of the Department of Molecular Medicine. In her role, Dr. Galanis leads a multidisciplinary team of scientists and physicians whose work covers the entire translational spectrum. Basic science discoveries in virology, cell biology, genomics and immunology lead to testing of these novel concepts in clinical trials, such as trials using modified viruses to kill tumors (oncolytic virus therapy).

Core facilities such as the Viral Vector Production Laboratory and the Toxicology and Pharmacology Shared Resource manufacture clinical-grade engineered viruses and perform preclinical toxicology and biodistribution studies to support the department's clinical trials.

The aim of the department is to build a premier virus, gene and cell therapy program and to translate promising therapeutics from bench to bedside in a timely manner.

"The wide range of disciplines represented by our staff facilitates the breadth of our translational activities," says Dr. Galanis. "We are in the unique position of being able to move a basic science discovery all the way through to clinical trials and the development of novel therapies, all within our own department and in an expedited fashion. For instance, instead of the standard five- to seven-year industry time frame, we moved our attenuated measles virus therapy for ovarian cancer from discovery to clinical trials within three years. This integrated process allows us to truly advance the science and quickly deliver the new treatments our patients are waiting for."

Ask Dr. Galanis what motivates her and her team, and the response is quick and sure. "Our patients are our inspiration," she says. "Every day that we see patients in the clinic or hospital, we are confronted with clinical problems we can't solve. These issues direct our research. We are passionate about understanding the mechanisms that drive disease, and using this information to design novel viral and cell-based therapeutic approaches. Our ultimate goal is to rapidly translate basic science discovery to the clinic and make an impact on patient outcomes."

Dr. Galanis has led the Department of Molecular Medicine since 2009. She succeeded Stephen J. Russell, M.D., Ph.D., who came to Mayo Clinic from Cambridge University in 1998 to establish the Gene and Virus Therapy Program. This program eventually led to the creation of the Virology and Gene Therapy Ph.D. track at Mayo Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and the Department of Molecular Medicine.