After more than 10 years of strong engagement in basic science, more specifically in the fields of developmental biology and neurobiology, there was a transition in my research interests, which were shifted towards translational medical research. This with particular attention to the field of oncology, but also embracing hematology, stem cells/regenerative medicine and autoimmune diseases. The concept of “basic research” was, however, never abandoned and continues to be driving force in all research endeavours. The field of tumour biology remains the research field of primary interest. Primary scientific areas of competence and expertise include: regulation of cell motility; mechanisms of ECM assembly and the role of cell-matrix interactions; angiogenesis; and developmental and stem cell biology. Currently, the main research lines conducted within the oncology field include: 1) identification and pre-clinical validation of novel biomarkers with diagnostic and/or prognostic/predictive value; 2) design, elaboration and pre-clinical development of novel multiparametric diagnostic platforms involving functional cellular assays; 3) target identification, target validation and pre-clinical development of novel theranostic and immunotherapeutic agents. Studies pursued within the first mentioned area of research have led to the following primary discoveries, which are presently a subject of more extended, multi-center investigations: A) the identification of unusually glycanated isoforms of transferrin and thyroglobulin as putative diagnostic and prognostic markers of thyroid carcinoma variants; B) aberrant expression of the proteoglycans syndecan-2 and NG2/CSPG4 for prediction of overall survival and tumour recurrence in oral cavity carcinoma patients; C) altered expression of proteoglycan NG2/CSPG4 in the emerge of metastatic disease in soft-tissue sarcoma patients
Leading research lines of my laboratory, building upon decades of studies on the identification and functional validation of unorthodox cancer targets and the accruing of more than 700 hybridoma clones against an ample spectrum of cancer targets have recently led to the generation and partial characterization of a wider panel of monoclonal antibodies directed against the proteoglycan NG2/CSPG4. Uniquely, this panel embodies a subset with direct cytotoxic properties for which a patent has recently been filed. Other antibodies of this panel exhibit tumour targeting properties and are being proposed as nanoparticle-based theranostic conjugates, while others are being exploited in CAR-T arrangements. Through tight alliances with companies of the “Big Pharma” circuit it is expected to advance several of these antibodies, and antibodies against other cancer antigens, to clinical experimentation
MEMBERSHIPS SCIENTIFIC INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEES
1. Elected Member of the Life Sciences Working Group of ESA (European Space agency) – 1999 – 2002
2. Elected Member of the Review Board of the EU Marie Curie Fellowship Programme, Framework Programmes FP6 and FP7 - 2004 - 2007
3. Elected National Coordinator of the EURIT (European Network for the advancement of RNA Interference Technology) - 2003 – 2005
MEMBERSHIPS SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES
Member of 11 National and International Societies
MEMBERSHIP IN PROFESSIONAL SOCIETIES 1. Member of “Ordine dei Biologi” (Italy) since 1993
2. Elected Member of the Institute of Biology, London, Chartered Biologist since 1994
RESEARCH GRANTS AWARDED
1. 1984 – present – Principal Investigator, Co-Principal Investigator and/or Coordinator for 17 International Grants;
2. 1998 – present - Principal Investigator, Co-Principal Investigator and Coordinator for 39 National Grants.
ABSTRACTS AND COMMUNICATIONS AT SCIENTIFIC MEETINGS
1980 – present – Main author or co-author of more than 390 Abstracts, Poster and Oral presentations at National and International scientific conferences and workshops.
1983 – present – Main author or co-author on 109 peer-reviewed publications, 2 non-peer reviewed publications and 3 book chapters