Biomedical Research Foundation Academy Of AthensAcademy Of Athens
Scientific Personnel

Demetrios K. Demetrios K. Vassilatis, PhD
Researcher C'

Telephone : +30 210 6597 456
Fax : +30 210 6597 545
e-mail :

Center :

Clinical, Experimental Surgery & Translational Research

Lab Site :

Vassilatis Lab

Brief Bio

Dr. Vassilatis received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1995 and subsequently he was a Visiting Research Scientist at Merck Research Labs until 1998. From 1998 to 2001 he was an Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine. In 2001 he co-founded Primal, a biotechnology company, and served as Senior Scientific Director. He joined the BRFAA in 2003. Initially, Dr. Vassilatis was involved in deciphering the mode of action of avermectin, the most common nematocidal drug. Using Caenorhabditis elegans as a model he expression cloned the first avermectin-sensitive glutamate-gated chloride channels. Subsequently, he used reverse genetics and functional genomics to elucidate drug resistance. His work helped explain the mechanism of action of a "wonder drug" and provided insights on drug design. Additionally, Dr. Vassilatis cloned and functionally characterized cell surface and intracellular human receptors using bioinformatics and functional genomics. He used the Drosophila transposable element Minos to create libraries of human cells with random insertions throughout the genome that could inactivate genes and allow live expression monitoring. In collaboration with Dr. Gaitanaris they developed methods for generation and screening of libraries of mouse ES cells harboring random retroviral insertions for the generation of KO animals. On the basis of these genomic and functional-genomic capabilities they founded the biotechnology company Primal Inc., now part of Omeros Corporation. At Baylor College of Medicine and at BRFAA the projects in his laboratory focus on the role of dopaminergic developmental factors in the pathogenesis and treatment of Parkinson's disease. He identified the first mutations associated with the disease in the gene encoding Nurr1, an orphan nuclear receptor suggesting to a novel theory for the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease.

Dr. Vassilatis initiated, obtained funding and headed a collaborative effort to develop a synthetic Nurr1::RXR agonist lead molecule for the treatment of PD. The molecule, BRF110, improves both symptoms and offers neuroprotection in pre-clinical PD models. The combined neuroprotective and symptomatic effects of BRF110 is the first ever monotherapeutic approach for PD.

Selected Publications

Cully, D. F., Vassilatis, D. K., Liu, K. K., Paress, P. S., Van der Ploeg, L. H. T., Schaeffer, J. M., and Arena, J. P. (1994) Expression cloning of a novel chloride channel gated by L-glutamate and avermectin from Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature 371, 707-711.

Vassilatis, D. K., Arena J. P., Plasterk, R. H., Wilkinson H. A., Schaeffer, J. M., Cully, D. F. and Van der Ploeg, L. H. T. (1997) Genetic and biochemical evidence for a novel avermectin-sensitive channel in Caenorhabditis elegans: Isolation and characterization. Journal of Biological Chemistry 272, 33167-33174.

Dent, J., Smith, M. H., Vassilatis, D. K. and Avery, L. (2000) The genetics of ivermectin resistance in Caenorhabditis elegans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 97, 2674-2679.

Klinakis, A., Zagoraiou, L., Vassilatis, D. K. and Savakis, C. (2000) Genome-wide insertional mutagenesis in human cells by the Drosophila mobile element Minos EMBO Reports 1, 416-421.

Le, W.D., Xu, P., Jiang, H., Jankovic J., Appel, S., Smith, R.G. and Vassilatis, D. K. (2003) Mutations in NR4A2 associated with familial Parkinson disease. Nature Genetics 33, 85-9.

Vassilatis, D.K., Hohmann, J.G., Zeng, H., Li, F., Ranchalis, J., Mortrud, M., Brown, A., Rodriguez, S., Weller, J., Wright, A., Bergmann, J. and Gaitanaris, G.A. (2003) The G protein-coupled receptor repertoires of human and mouse. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 100, 4903-4908.

Gragerov, A., Horie, K., Pavlova, M., Madisen, L., Zeng, H., Gragerova, G., Rhode, A., Dolka, I., Roth, P., Ebbert, A., Moe, S., Navas, C., Finn, E., Bergmann, J. Vassilatis, D.K., Pavlakis, G.N. and Gaitanaris, G.A. (2007) A large scale, saturating insertional mutagenesis of the mouse genome. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 104, 14406-14411.

Sotiriou, E., Vassilatis, D.K., Vila, M and Stefanis, L. (2010) Selective noradrenergic vulnerability in alpha-synuclein transgenic mice Neurobiology of Aging 2010 Dec;31(12):2103-14.

Ross OA, Soto-Ortolaza AI, Heckman MG, Aasly JO, Abahuni N, Annesi G, Bacon JA, Bardien S, Bozi M, Brice A, Brighina L, Van Broeckhoven C, Carr J, Chartier-Harlin MC, Dardiotis E, Dickson DW, Diehl NN, Elbaz A, Ferrarese C, Ferraris A, Fiske B, Gibson JM, Gibson R, Hadjigeorgiou GM, Hattori N, Ioannidis JP, Jasinska-Myga B, Jeon BS, Kim YJ, Klein C, Kruger R, Kyratzi E, Lesage S, Lin CH, Lynch T, Maraganore DM, Mellick GD, Mutez E, Nilsson C, Opala G, Park SS, Puschmann A, Quattrone A, Sharma M, Silburn PA, Sohn YH, Stefanis L, Tadic V, Theuns J, Tomiyama H, Uitti RJ, Valente EM, van de Loo S, Vassilatis DK, Vilariño-Güell C, White LR, Wirdefeldt K, Wszolek ZK, Wu RM, Farrer MJ; Genetic Epidemiology Of Parkinson's Disease (GEO-PD) Consortium. (2011) LRRK2 exonic variants and susceptibility to Parkinson’s disease Lancet Neurology (10):898-908.

Lionta, E., Spyrou, G., Vassilatis, D.K. and Cournia, Z. (2014) Recent Trends in Library Design and Virtual Screening in Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry 14:1923-38.

Spathis AD, Asvos X, Ziavra D, Karampelas T, Topouzis S, Cournia Z, Qing X, Alexakos P, Smits LM, Dalla C, Rideout HJ, Schwamborn JC, Tamvakopoulos C, Fokas D, Vassilatis DK. (2017) Nurr1:RXRalpha Heterodimer Activation as Monotherapy for Parkinson’s Disease Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 114(15):3999-4004.

Argyrofthalmidou M , Spathis AD, Maniati M, Poula A, Katsianou MA, Sotiriou E, Manousaki M, Perier C, Papapanagiotou I, Papadopoulou-Daifoti Z, Pitychoutis PM, Alexakos P, Vila M, Stefanis L, and Vassilatis DK (2020) Nurr1 repression mediates cardinal features of Parkinson’s Disease in α-synuclein transgenic mice. Human Molecular Genetics (under revision)


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