The legacy of Gabriel Rabinovich, the Argentine scientist who revolutionizes cancer therapies

The legacy of Gabriel Rabinovich, the Argentine scientist who revolutionizes cancer therapies

Gabriel Rabinovich started with very little: Only with a few rabbit antibodies in rolls of photos. It was the time when I was studying biochemistry at the Public University And he was doing a practice, but the lab closed and the rabbit antibodies ended up in the refrigerator at his parents’ house in Córdoba.

After three decades of betting on doing science in Argentina, be a senior researcher of the Conicet, form a team -which works like a big family-, teacher, Publish 320 scientific papers, win multiple national and international awards, be a member of the academies of sciences of the United States and Europe, Today he founded the first technology-based company in the country that will be engaged in making The Science of Sugars Provide specific products for patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis and vascular diseases.

Between the beginning of his career and the present, Rabinovich made a path traveled with passion, solidarity, search for excellence, and a constant effort to know more about diseases from the discovery he achieved to from the antibodies you kept in the refrigerator. Their motivation is to turn off the suffering that people live with diseases.

He received a diploma of honor from the public university, the National University of Córdoba, and went to do a course in Israel. When he returned he got a position as a teacher and began to investigate the interaction between the functioning of the brain and the defense system, the immune system. But the experiments did not give him as he expected. He felt frustrated, and even He came to think it was “a disaster for science.” He was about to abandon it, and entered a total crisis that lasted a year.

Until one day in 1993, the biochemist remembered the tubes he kept in the family freezer and began to study what was there. Three months later, at 11 p.m. (yes at night, because he liked to work very late in the lab), Rabinovich was sitting in front of the microscope in his lab in Córdoba, and he was able to recognize a unique structure in cells important to the immune system’s response, called macrophages. The rabbits’ antibodies had recognized something strange there.

It was a protein that “likes” sweetness. It binds with beta-galactoside sugars. Although it had already been identified in other species, it was the first time that this protein, called galectin -1, was detected in the immune system of a complex organism. Rabinovich’s finding was the main topic of his doctoral thesis.

Almost literally, that discovery opened the door to a new world. It is now known, thanks to the research he led and that other colleagues in the world corroborated, that galectin-1 may be the key both to the development of biomarkers that serve to decide more personalized treatments and for antibody therapies that make the immune system attack tumors.

Or on the contrary, therapies that control the immune system in cases of autoimmune diseases could also be developed.

Rabinovich and his colleagues have already done preclinical trials that prove it.

The next step will be to do translational research that evaluates the safety and efficacy of products in clinical trials and for that the role of the new company will be fundamental, Galtec.

It went from basic research in the laboratory to opening a company in the same institute where the Argentine Nobel Prize in Medicine, Bernardo Houssay, worked.

Yes, he did everything, even yesterday he even lowered chairs to organize the launch event of the company that they attended from the current Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Daniel Filmus like its predecessor, Lino Barañao, scientists from different disciplines such as Galo Soler Illia, Marina Simian, Daniel Gómez, and Hugo Menzella, and professionals who do clinical research. Also present was the head of the National Agency for the Promotion of Research, Technological Development and Innovation, Fernando Peirano.

“In our journey, there were advances that marked Milestones. Since we identified galectin -1 until now, 30 years of purely Argentine science have passed,” Rabinovich, who is also now a professor at the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires, told Infobae. He had many offers to go to work in developed countries, but so far he chose Argentina.

One of his team’s milestones was the discovery that administering the protein to mice with arthritis could reverse symptoms of the disease. They reported it in the magazine Journal of Experimental Medicine in 1999. They eliminated activated T lymphocytes and watched the mice walk again.

In 2004, together with Natalia Rubinstein and other collaborators, Rabinovich found a mechanism that allows tumors to avoid attack by the immune system. Through work with mice, they demonstrated that galectin-1 plays a fundamental role in promoting escape to tumor cells. In a paper in Cancer Cell They postulated that blocking the protein could enable and enhance effective immune responses against tumor cells.

Ten years later, on the cover of the prestigious Cell, it was proven in experimental models that galectin-1 not only helps different types of cancers escape the immune response but also favors the creation of blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis. This allows tumors to get oxygen and nutrients to grow and metastasize to other parts of the body.

From that moment on, Rabinovich and his team -with Marta Toscano, Diego Croci, Mariana Salatino, and others – began to evaluate a monoclonal antibody against galectin -1. They proved that the antibody was able to counteract resistance to vascular endothelial growth factor blockade and reduce tumor growth. These results were building a knowledge for today to have a potential treatment for the future: “It would be a combo of 2 for 1,” he compared in dialogue with Infobae.

That is, today they have an antibody that could act against the creation of the blood vessels of tumors and modulate the immune system so that it can eliminate tumor cells and prevent them from spreading. While immunotherapies and blood vessel drugs are already indicated to patients, the potential treatment would produce the effects if confirmed in clinical trials in the future.

But that’s not all. The new company – which can also be considered a “startup” – is considering products for multiple sclerosis and vascular diseases.

Other research by Rabinovich also showed that the protein galectin-1 has an anti-inflammatory effect in various models of chronic inflammation, including rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. It also has a protective effect on the development of acute myocardial infarction.

With a group of Spain, demonstrated that treatment with galectin-1 to mice with atherosclerosis or with abdominal aortic aneurysm It was able to prevent the development of vascular lesions. A potential treatment could prevent plaque rupture and associated complications such as heart attack. Here, too, clinical trials with volunteers will be needed to confirm this.

Rabinovich could have gone abroad to investigate, but he didn’t. It could have licensed the patented technologies for multinational companies to do the clinical trials and commercialize products.

But he chose to create a company within the Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine (IBYME) of Conicet, with public and private support. He created GALTEC together with colleagues from Conicet and professionals from different disciplines.

He explained it in his opening speech at Galtec: “Because we want to accompany our technologies, our products and take care of them so that they mature, to give them value, to ensure that they reach those who need it most, to patients, that they do not get lost along the way, that they reach people, absolutely everyone, every corner of Argentina, of Latin America and the world”.


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