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"He who dares, wins"

Posted By Connections Editor, Sunday, June 30, 2013
Updated: Friday, June 28, 2013

Achilles Anagnostopoulos, MD
Director and Head, Hematology Department
BMT Unit, Gene and Cell Therapy Centre,
Public Cord Blood Bank
George Papanicolaou Hospital,
57010 Thessaloniki, Greece

Dr. Achilles Anagnostopoulos is the Director and Head of the Hematology Department and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Unit at the G. Papanicolaou Hospital (GPH/HD-HCT), a tertiary referral center - the largest of its kind in Greece - with a capacity of 48 beds and a large outpatient clinic. It has a staff of 22 specialized hematologists, 16 residents in Hematology, 12 biologists, 15 laboratory technicians and 48 trained nurses.

The fields of hematology and stem cell research have always fascinated Dr. Anagnostopoulos. He has had a long-standing collaboration with Professors Thalia Papayannopoulou and George Stamatoyannopoulos who introduced him to ISEH. ISEH’s openness to new ideas originally attracted Dr. Anagnostopoulos to the organization, and he enjoys attending the ISEH annual meeting in order to follow the latest developments in stem cell research, meet international collaborators, and organize future actions.

Dr. Anagnostopoulos is excited by advances being made in his facility for gene and cell therapy of inherited and acquired diseases, particularly in gene therapy of thalassemia and GvHD.

Dr. Anagnostopoulos was kind enough to answer some questions for ISEH.

Who was your most influential senior investigator mentor and how did he or she help you?

I have had the privilege of working under Professor John Goldman, who guided me in allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation and also gave me the opportunity to receive training in molecular biology. Further on, I started a close and very productive collaboration with Professor Stamatoyannopoulos whose mentoring was instrumental in my career decisions.

How are you helping to mentor new investigators at your lab/facility?

Our facility has always encouraged new investigators through active PhD and post-doc programs. In fact, in the last 12 years, my close collaborators and I personally have supervised the research activities of 15 PhD students. In addition, our department provides specialty training for 16 residents in hematology, several of whom follow a career in laboratory science as well.

Given your experience in the field, how have you seen the field change in the last five years?

We have come to have a stronger appreciation of the need for biologically-oriented treatment towards the aim of personalized medicine; to better define objectives; and, to understand limitations of existing approaches both in the clinic and the lab.

It’s clear that the field is going to continue to evolve at an amazing pace. How do you see it changing over the next five years?

Basic research will increasingly be linked to and interweaved with clinical practice, posing new challenges, as it will be difficult to decide what is clinically relevant and worth adopting into routine practice.

What do you consider the biggest challenge currently facing the hematology and stem cells scientific field and how can it be managed?

Currently, the biggest challenge is the enormous cost of novel treatments creating a relevant problem of exclusion and disparities.

Does your lab have any big studies or projects planned in the near future?

Yes, we will be holding a clinical trial of gene therapy for thalassemia.

Why did you decide to pursue your research career in your native country?

I am deeply committed to helping Greece as best as I can in both research and health administration.

What are the challenges and the rewards of working as a researcher in Greece?

Living in a country spending too little on research, it is evidently very difficult and frequently frustrating to follow a career in science. Nonetheless, he who dares wins.

How would you describe the funding climate in your country for biomedical research in general and for your specific type of research in particular?

National funding is limited, especially in this time of financial crisis.

What advice do you have for new investigators that are considering returning to your country to conduct research in general and in your field of expertise?

They have to be prepared to be patient, inventive and willing to pursue collaborations.

What advice do you have for your government to recruit high level researchers?

They should focus on the needs, well-defined positions, and motivation.

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