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Professor Michael Themis
Professor - Gene Therapy and Genotoxicity


Dr Themis is a Reader in the Department of Life Sciences Brunel University London and an Honorary Lecturer at Imperial College, London. His research at Brunel concerns gene therapy efficacy and safety.

Founding Director of TestaVec Ltd - A brunel University spin-out company

Between 2015 and 2017 over 1800 gene therapy (GT) trials were initiated or approved worldwide. Large pharmaceutical companies including GSK, Novartis, Astra Zeneca and Pfizer are investing heavily in gene therapy virus technology and two new licensed products, ‘Glybera” (Uniqure) and Strimvelis (GSK) have now entered the market. Treatments for several genetic disorders are available including cancer, however, no standardised platform has been available to test safety, which is concerning following the development of leukaemia in several children treated for X-linked immunodeficiency by this therapy. Dr Themis has recently launched the first company that focusses on screening the safety of gene therapy. The technology developed and led by Dr Themis in collaboration with UCL, KCL, GeneWerk, Germany, the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control and NMI, Germany, won the SBRI InMutaGene CRACK-IT Challenge. This work, which was funded by the NC3Rs and sponsored by GSK and Novartis has generated the first human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSc) based platform that evaluates the safety of gene therapy products. The intension is to use this technology prior to patient exposure as a pre-screening service that identifies patient tolerance to gene therapy and to profile vector side effects next to established reference standards. With IP filed, TestaVec Ltd, which is a spin-out of Brunel University will support academics and industry alike to enter their products safety into the clinic.


  • BSc: 1st class honours with Brunel University London and University Prize
  • PhD: 1994 entitled “Insertional mutagenesis:experiences at the hprt locus”
  • Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (PGCert)
  • Post Graduate Certificate in Intellectual Property Law (PGCert)


Persuasion and Assertiveness - 2008

PgCert in Teaching - 2008

PgCert in Patent Law - 2010

Blackboard Learn - 2012

Biological Monitoring for Health and safety – HSE Buxton 2012

Introduction to the Principles and Practices of working at Containment Level 3 – HPA Porton Down 2013


Teaching Interests

Cancer genetics, Gene Therapy and Genotoxicity, Health and Safety and Intellectual Property law. He coordinates the Gene Therapy and Genomic Technologies modules to undergraduates.


Deputy Chair of the Animal Welfare and Ethics Review Body (AWERB) and supports the concordat for Openness on Animal Research. He also holds a PIL and PPL.

He is part of the Quality Assurance Group for PPL management

He coordinates the Biology at Brunel event each year.

Lead for gene therapy technologies in the Synthetic Biology theme in the Institute of Life Sciences  

Newest selected publications

Suleman, S., Payne, A., Bowden, J., Al Haque, S., Zhan, M., Fawax, S., et al. (2022) 'HIV- 1 lentivirus tethering to the genome is associated with transcription factor binding sites found in genes that favour virus survival'. Gene Therapy (Basingstoke), 0 (in press). pp. 720 - 729. ISSN: 0969-7128 Open Access Link

Journal article

Lucendo-Villarin, B., Rashidi, H., Alhaque, S., Fischer, L., Meseguer-Ripolles, J., Wang, Y., et al. (2019) 'Serum free production of three-dimensional human hepatospheres from pluripotent stem cells'. Journal of Visualized Experiments, 2019 (149). pp. 1 - 8. ISSN: 1940-087X Open Access Link

Journal article

Tijani, M., Munis, AM., Perry, C., Sanber, K., Ferraresso, M., Mukhopadhyay, T., et al. (2018) 'Lentivector Producer Cell Lines with Stably Expressed Vesiculovirus Envelopes'. Molecular Therapy - Methods and Clinical Development, 10. pp. 303 - 312. ISSN: 2329-0501 Open Access Link

Journal article

Themis, M. (2018) 'Three-dimensional cell culture: From evolution to revolution'. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 373 (1750). pp. 20170216 - 20170216. ISSN: 0962-8436 Open Access Link

Journal article

Khonsari, H., Schneider, M., Al-Mahdawi, S., Chianea, YG., Themis, M., Parris, C., et al. (2016) 'Lentivirus-meditated frataxin gene delivery reverses genome instability in Friedreich ataxia patient and mouse model fibroblasts'. Nature Gene Therapy, 23 (12). pp. 846 - 856. ISSN: 0969-7128 Open Access Link

Journal article
More publications(88)