Dominic Gessler, MD

Resident PGY2, Department of Neurosurgery

Dominic Gessler

Contact Info

MD, Medizinische Fakultät Heidelberg, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität, Heidelberg, Germany

University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester

Medizinische Hochschule Lübeck, Universität, Lübeck, Germany

Summary

A native of Germany, Dr. Gessler earned his medical degree from the Medizinische Fakultät Heidelberg (Medical Faculty of Heidelberg).

During his studies at the University of Heidelberg Medical School, Dr. Gessler won a prestigious scholarship from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester as an adjunct to his medical studies. He also won an Academic Scholarship from the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany, for his academic interests and achievements.

While still in medical school, Dr. Gessler joined Dr. Guangping Gao’s laboratory at the Horae Gene Therapy Center of the University of Massachusetts Medical School to develop gene therapies for neurologic disorders and to study central nervous system metabolism. His research lead to paradigm-changing findings and the first intravenous administration of rAAV to a patient with Canavan disease, a condition caused by an inherited mutation of the ASPA gene that causes progressive damage to nerve cells in the brain.

Continuing to advance his gene therapy research and bringing it to the patient community, Dr. Gessler cofounded ASPA Therapeutics, based in Palo Alto, CA. He is also on the scientific and clinical advisory board of the company.

Dr. Gessler completed sub-internships in neurosurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, Barrow Neurological Institute, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the University of Minnesota. He is multilingual and enjoys running, biking, spelunking, and hiking when he has free time.

Awards & Recognition

  • Scholarship of the University of Massachusetts Medical School to enroll in third year medical school (2011 - 2012)
  • Academic Scholarship of the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany (2011 - 2012)
  • American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy, Meritorious Travel Award (2015, 2016) 

Professional Associations

  • Associate Member, American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT)
  • Member, American Association of Neurological Surgeons
  • Member, ASGCT Trainee Committee
  • Member, ASGCT Musculoskeletal Committee

Languages

  • German

Research

Research Summary/Interests

Dr. Gessler’s research focus has primarily been on Canavan disease. He is first author of several publications on the topic currently in the submission process and helped author 20 articles published in peer-reviewed journals. He was first author on nine of those articles. Dr. Gessler also authored two published book chapters and has given 10 poster presentations and 14 oral presentations about his work. He was co-recipient of a patent for “Methods and composition for correcting metabolic imbalance in neurodegenerative disease.”

Research Funding Grants

Under the mentorship of Guangping Gao, PhD. Dr. Gessler taught two-week classes titled, “Gene Therapy for metabolic disorders,” for fourth-year medical students at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Working with Dr. Gao, Dr. Gessler’s many research assignments included:

  • Developing gene therapy for Canavan disease and Alexander disease
  • Performing high-field imaging (DTI, fMRI) to study CNS function and response to therapy in Canavan disease mouse models
  • Working on an Investigational New Drug (IND) development as part of his responsibilities at ASPA Therapeutics, Inc.
  • Identifying mechanisms that prevent CNS repair in late-stage Canavan disease
  • Establishing pathomechanistic research for Canavan disease using recombinant adeno-associated viruses to deliver therapeutic genes and probe disease mechanisms in vivo
  • Investigating the function of N-acetylaspartate (NAA) in cell energy metabolism regulation
  • Establishing mechanistic research on the function of N-acetylaspartate (NAA) in the central nervous system using RNA sequencing, metabolomics, microRNAomics and CRISPR techniques in vitro and in vivo.

Side project: developing Alexander disease gene therapy in mouse and rat models using shRNA, miRNA and CRISPR mediated gene knock-down and modulation of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)

Patents

Gessler D. J., Gao G. (2017). Patent: Methods and composition for correcting metabolic imbalance in neurodegenerative disease. PCT/US2017/027759, Pub Status: Published

Publications

Publications in submission

  • Gessler D. J., Li D., Lotun A., Xu H., Su Q., Tuncer S., Sanmiguel J., Eyles S. J., Strittmatter L., Hayward L. J., Gao G. Reconstituting N-acetylaspartate Metabolism Reverses Demyelination
  • Gessler D.J., Lee V., Cataltepe O. Spontaneous Resolution of a Large Calcified Residue of a Third Ventricle Colloid Cyst

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles/Abstracts

  • Wang, D., Li, J., Song C.Q., Tran K., Mou H., Wu P.H., Tai P.W.L., Mendonca C.A., Wang B., Su Q., Gessler D.J., Zamore P.D., Xue W., Gao G. Cas9-mediated allelic exchange repairs compound heterozygous recessive mutations in mice. Nature Biotechnology. 2018, Aug; 36(9): 839–842. Cited in PubMed; PMID: 30102296. Pub Status: Published
  • Wang D. *, Li S. *, Gessler D. J. *, Xie J., Zhong L., Li J., Tran K., Van Vliet K., Ren L., Su Q., He R., Goetzmann J. E., Flotte T. R., Agbandje-McKenna M., Gao G.; * These authors contributed equally. A Rationally Engineered Capsid Variant of AAV9 for Systemic CNS-Directed and Peripheral Tissue-Detargeted Gene Delivery in Neonates. Molecular Therapy - Methods & Clinical Development. 2018, Jun; 9(-): 234-246. Cited in PubMed; PMID: 29766031. Pub Status: Published
  • Wang, D., Li, J., Song, C.Q., Tran, K., Mou, H., Wu, P.H., Tai, P.W.L., Mendonca, C.A., Ren, L, Wang, B.Y., Su, Q., Gessler, D. J., Zamore, P.D., Xue, W., Gao, G. Bi-Allelic cleavage by Cas9 Causes Translocation between Homologous Chromosomes -Therapeutic Opportunities and Mechanisms in Non-Dividing and Dividing Cells. Molecular Therapy. 2018, May; 26(5S1): 110. Pub Status: Published
  • Lu Y., Tai P.W.L., Ai J., Gessler D. J., Su Q., Yao X., Zheng Q., Zamore P.D., Xu X., Gao G. Transcriptome Profiling of Neovascularized Corneas Reveals miR-204 as a Multi-target Biotherapy Deliverable by rAAVs. Molecular Therapy - Nucleic Acids. 2018, Mar; 10(-): 349-360. Cited in PubMed; PMID: 29499946. Pub Status: Published
  • Corti, M., Gessler, D., Norman, S., Coleman, K., Liberati, C., Elder, M., Escolar, M., Clement, N., Clever, B., Byrne, B., Gao G. Immune Blockade in CNS Gene Therapy Improves Safety and Clinical Outcome. Molecular Therapy. 2018, May; 26(5S1): 32. Pub Status: Published
  • Gessler D. J., Li D., Xu H., Su Q., Sanmiguel J., Tuncer S., Moore C., King J., Matalon R., Gao G. Redirecting N-acetylaspartate metabolism in the central nervous system normalizes myelination and rescues Canavan disease. JCI Insights. 2017, Feb; 2(3). Cited in PubMed; PMID: 28194442. Pub Status: Published
  • Ai J., Li J., Gessler D. J., Su Q., Wei Q., Li H., Gao G. Adeno-associated virus serotype rh.10 displays strong muscle tropism following intraperitoneal delivery. Scientific Reports. 2017, Jan; 7(-): 40336. Cited in PubMed; PMID: 28067312. Pub Status: Published
  • Wang D., Mou H., Tran K., Li J., Wang B., Gessler D. J., Tai P., Su Q., Xue W., Gao G. Somatically Repairing Compound Heterozygous Recessive Mutations by Chromosomal Cut-and-Paste for In Vivo Gene Therapy. Molecular Therapy. 2016, May; 24(-): S289. Cited in PubMed; PMID: 27102541. Pub Status: Published
  • Lu Y., Ai J., Gessler D. J., Su Q., Tran K., Zheng Q., Xu X., Gao G. Efficient Transduction of Corneal Stroma by Adeno-Associated Viral Serotype Vectors for Implications in Gene Therapy of Corneal Diseases. Human Gene Therapy. 2016, Aug; 27(8): 598-608. Cited in PubMed; PMID: 27001051. Pub Status: Published
  • Gessler D. J., Huang W., Li D., Xu H., Su Q., King J., Moore C., Gao G. High-Field In Vivo Neuroimaging to Determine CNS Gene Therapy Outcome and Probe Disease Pathomechanism. Molecular Therapy. 2016, May; 24(-): S61-S62. Cited in PubMed; PMID: 27102541. Pub Status: Published
  • Gessler D. J., Li D., Xu H., Su Q., Gao G. The Cure of Canavan Disease: Is It a Scientific Fiction or Clinical Reality? Molecular Therapy. 2016, May; 24(-): S140. Cited in PubMed; PMID: 27102541. Pub Status: Published
  • Gessler D. J., Li D., Xu H., Su Q., Matalon R., Gao G. Efficacious Non-Oligodendrocyte Gene Therapy Suggests a New Dogma About CNS Compartmentalization of NAA Metabolism and Supports a Metabolic Sink Theory. Molecular Therapy. 2016, May; 24(-): S140-S141. Cited in PubMed; PMID: 27102541. Pub Status: Published
  • Gessler D. J., Li D., Xu H., Su Q., Matalon R., Gao G. Pushing the Limits for Canavan Gene Therapy into Adulthood: Is There an Age Limit for Gene Therapy in CNS Disorders? Molecular Therapy. 2016, May; 24(-):S25-S26. Cited in PubMed; PMID: 27102541. Pub Status: Published.
  • Gessler D. J., Li D., Xu H., Su Q., Matalon R., Gao G. Hitting Two Birds with One Stone: How Efficacious Pre-Clinical Gene Therapy Cures Canavan Disease and Sheds Light onto the Pathomechanism. Molecular Therapy. 2016, May; 24(-): S147. Cited in PubMed; PMID: 27102541. Pub Status: Published
  • Lu Y., Ai J., Tai P., Gessler D. J., Su Q., Zheng Q., Zamore P., Xu X., Gao G. rAAV Delivered MicroRNA Therapeutics Towards Efficacious Treatment of Corneal Neovascularization. Molecular Therapy. 2016, May; 24(-): S291. Cited in PubMed; PMID: 27102541. Pub Status: Published
  • Gessler D. J., Li J., Su Q., Matalon R., Gao G. From Gene Therapy to Gene Enhancement: Optimized Pre-Clinical Gene Therapy Transforms Mice with the Severest Canavan Disease Phenotype Into "Supermice." Molecular Therapy. 2015, May; 23(-): S198. Pub Status: Published
  • Lu Y., Li S., Ai J., Gessler D. J., Xu X., Gao G. Development of Anti-Angiogenic miRNA Therapeutics for Corneal Neovascularization. Molecular Therapy. 2015, May; 23(-): S233Pub Status: Published.
  • Matalon, R., Gessler D. J., Li J., Su Q., Gao G. Optimized gene therapy for mice with Canavan disease using Kozak consensus sequence. Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease. 2015, Sep; 38(1 Supplement): S29. Cited in PubMed; PMID: 26231229. Pub Status: Published
  • Gessler D. J., Ahmed S. S., Su Q., Matalon R., Gao G. Optimized AspA Expression Cassette Dramatically Improves Therapeutic Potency of Systemically Delivered rAAV in CNS Gene Therapy of Canavan’s Disease. Molecular Therapy. 2014, May; 22(-): S111. Pub Status: Published
  • Yang B., Li S., Wang H., Guo Y., Gessler D. J., Cao C., Su Q., Kramer J., Zhong L., Ahmed S. S., Zhang W., He R., Desrosiers R. C., Brown R., Xu Z., Gao G. Global CNS Transduction of Adult Mice by Intravenously Delivered rAAVrh.8 and rAAVrh.10 and Nonhuman Primates by rAAVrh.10. Molecular Therapy. 2014, Jul; 22(7): 1299-1309. Cited in PubMed; PMID: 24781136. Pub Status: Published.

Peer Reviewed Book Chapters

  • Gessler D.J., Tai P.W.L., Li J., Gao G. (2019) Intravenous Infusion of AAV for Widespread Gene Delivery to the Nervous System. In: Castle M. (eds) Adeno-Associated Virus Vectors. Methods in Molecular Biology, vol 1950. Humana Press, New York, NY
  • Gessler D.J., Gao G. (2016) Gene Therapy for the Treatment of Neurological Disorders: Metabolic Disorders. In: Manfredsson F. (eds) Gene Therapy for Neurological Disorders. Methods in Molecular Biology, vol 1382. Humana Press, New York, NY

Poster Presentations

  • Gessler D. J., Li D., Su Q., Gao G. (2017). rAAV Mediated Gene Therapy Completely Prevents and Reverses Canavan Disease at Early and Late Treatment Time Points in Different Mouse Models Poster presented at: New York Academy of Science Gene Therapy for Rare Diseases; New York City, NY
  • Gessler D. J., Li D., Su Q., Sanmiguel J., Gao G. (2017). Systemically Delivered CNS-Directed Canavan Disease Gene Therapy at Different Ages Targets Brain Regions and Corrects NAA Metabolism at Similar Efficiencies but Restores Motor Function in an Age- Dependent Manner Poster presented at: American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy Annual Conference; Washington, DC
  • Li D.*, Gessler D. J.*, Su Q., Matalon R., Gao G. * contributed equally. (2017). Tissue and Cell Type-Specific rAAV Gene Therapy Reveals a Novel Therapeutic Cell Target and Biomarker for Canavan Disease Poster presented at: American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy Annual Conference; Washington, DC
  • Gessler D. J., Huang W., Li D., Xu H., Su Q., King J., Moore C., Gao G. (2016). High-field in Vivo Neuroimaging to Determine CNS Gene Therapy Outcome and Probe Disease Pathomechanism Poster presented at: American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy Annual Conference; Washington, DC
  • Gessler D. J., Li D., Xu H., Su Q., Gao G. (2016). The cure of Canavan Disease: Is it a scientific fiction or clinical reality? Poster presented at: American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy Annual Conference; Washington, DC
  • Gessler D. J., Li D., Xu H., Su Q., Matalon R., Gao G. (2016). Efficacious non-oligodendrocyte Gene Therapy suggests a new dogma about CNS compartmentalization of NAA metabolism and supports a metabolic sink theory Poster presented at: American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy Annual Conference; Washington DC
  • Gessler D. J., Li D., Xu H., Su Q., Matalon R., Gao G. (2016). Hitting Two Birds with One Stone: How Efficacious Pre-Clinical Gene Therapy Cures Canavan Disease and Sheds Light onto the Pathomechanism Poster presented at: American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy Annual Conference; Washington, DC.
  • Lu Y., Li S., Ai J., Gessler D. J., Xu X., Gao G. (2015). Development of Anti-Angiogenic miRNA Therapeutics for Corneal Neovascularization Poster presented at: American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy Annual Conference; New Orleans, LA
  • Matalon, R., Gessler D. J., Li J., Su Q., Gao G. (2015). Optimized gene therapy for mice with Canavan disease using Kozak consensus sequence Poster presented at: SSIEM Annual Symposium; Lyon, FRA
  • Gessler D. J., Ahmed S. S., Su Q., Matalon R., Gao G. (2014). Optimized AspA Expression Cassette Dramatically Improves Therapeutic Potency of Systemically Delivered rAAV in CNS Gene Therapy of Canavan's Disease Poster presented at: American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy Annual Conference; Washington, DC.

Oral Presentations

  • Gessler, D. J. (2018). Gene Therapy Canavan Disease - Updates Oral Presentation presented at: National Tay-Sachs and Associated Diseases Annual Conference; Jacksonville, FL
  • Gessler, D. J. (2018). CNS Gene Therapy for Canavan Disease: From Gene Discovery to Gene Therapy Licensing. Oral Presentation presented at: FOXG1 Symposium; San Diego, CA
  • Gessler, D. J. (2017). The current stage of Gene Therapy Oral Presentation presented at: National Tay-Sachs and Associated Diseases Annual Conference; Dallas, TX
  • Gessler, D. J. (2017). Pre-clinical Gene Therapy for Canavan Disease Oral Presentation presented at: University of Florida Powell Gene Therapy Center; Gainesville, FL
  • Gessler, D. J. (2016). Clinical Trial for Canavan Disease Gene Therapy – Where are we? Oral Presentation presented at: National Tay-Sachs and Associated Diseases Annual Conference; Orlando, FL
  • Gessler, D. J. (2016). The cure of Canavan Disease - Scientific Fiction or Pre-clinical Reality? Oral Presentation presented at: ASGCT - private session BioMarin; Washington, DC
  • Gessler, D. J. (2016). The cure of Canavan Disease - Scientific Fiction or Pre-clinical Reality? Oral Presentation presented at: ASGCT - private session Spark Therapeutics; Washington, DC
  • Gessler D. J. (2016). Canavan Disease: Model System for Gene Therapy and Basic Biology? Oral Presentation presented at: Columbia University; New York City, NY
  • Gessler D. J., Li D., Xu H., Su Q., Matalon R., Gao G. (2016). Pushing the Limits for Canavan Gene Therapy into Adulthood: Is There an Age Limit for Gene Therapy in CNS Disorders? Oral Presentation presented at: American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy Annual Conference; Washington, DC
  • Gessler D. J., Li J., Su Q., Matalon R., Gao G. (2015). From Gene Therapy to Gene Enhancement: Optimized Pre-Clinical Gene Therapy Transforms Mice with the Severest Canavan Disease Phenotype Into "Supermice" Oral Presentation presented at: American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy Annual Conference; New Orleans, LA
  • Gessler, D. J. (2015). Preclinical Gene Therapy cures Canavan Disease Oral Presentation presented at: UMass Media Fellowship; Worcester, MA
  • Gessler, D. J. (2015). Pre-clinical Gene Therapy for Canavan Disease: Does it work? Oral Presentation presented at: United Leukodystrophy Foundation Conference; Omaha, NE
  • Gessler, D. J. (2015). Updates on Canavan Disease Gene Therapy Oral Presentation presented at: National Tay-Sachs and Associated Diseases Annual Conference; Washington, DC
  • Gessler, D. J. (2014). Gene Therapy for Canavan Disease, a severe inherited pediatric leukodystrophy – are we there yet? Oral Presentation presented at: National Tay-Sachs and Associated Diseases Annual Conference; Atlanta, GA

Community Engagement

As a medical student, Dr. Gessler completed a clinical elective by working at the Amala Cancer Hospital in Thrissur, India, in the Department of General Surgery, Neurosurgery and Emergency Medicine. He also tutored students in gross anatomy at the University of Heidelberg Medical School. Additionally, Dr. Gessler spent almost three years working on overnight shifts as a medical student assistant in the emergency department of the Head Clinic (Neurosurgery, Neurology, ENT, Ophthalmology, Maxillofacial Surgery) at Heidelberg University Hospital.