Elena Herrera Carrillo, PhD
Associate Professor, specialty: Molecular virology and gene therapy
Focus of research
Elena Herrera’s group works in developing a cure for HIV infection based on novel CRISPR-Cas methods. CRISPR-Cas is a powerful gene editing tool but can also be used to selectively attack and inactivate integrated HIV DNA genomes in infected cells. She focuses on viral delivery of the therapeutic genes to the cells in which HIV forms the reservoir that prevents a cure. The construction of a single all-in-one vector is particularly important for the future success of a gene therapy against HIV. Her group works on the optimization of novel expression systems and studies the variables that determine the outcome of HIV-editing by the different CRISPR-Cas systems. She also develops systems for in vivo targeting of the relevant HIV-reservoir cells, a requirement to translate this therapeutic strategy into clinical use. Elena has set up several strategic collaborations to develop viral vectors with a preference or specific tropism for HIV reservoir cells. More recently, Elena’s group also developed CRISPR-Cas strategies to target the SARS-CoV-2 RNA genome. Close interactions exist with other members of the AmsterdamUMC, including dr. A. Pasternak, dr. J. den Dunnen and prof. B. Berkhout.
Head of the research team
Elena Herrera Carrillo (1981) holds a doctoral degree in Biochemistry of the University of Granada, Spain. She performed PhD research (2006-2010) at the University of Barcelona on a research project concerning the development of synthetic peptides from the E2 protein of GB virus C as new HIV-1 inhibitors. In 2012 she moved to the Berkhout laboratory at the University of Amsterdam as postdoctoral researcher. She made this career shift in order to contribute to research aimed at developing a safe and effective gene therapy for HIV-1. She focused on RNA interference as antiviral mechanism. She was instrumental in the development of a novel class of small RNA regulators, the so-called AgoshRNA molecules that hold promise as therapeutic molecules. In 2018, Elena started her own research group at the Amsterdam UMC focusing on novel CRISPR-Cas methods to attack the integrated HIV DNA genome to reach a cure. Based on her previous work on therapeutic peptides, she also decided to develop transgene constructs that mimic these latter molecules. She has taken a multi-disciplinary approach combining molecular biology, virology, immunology and gene therapy to develop an original class of anti-HIV agents.