Keynote Speakers

Wednesday, 24 September

Jacopo Meldolesi

Jacopo Meldolesi received his MD degree at the University of Catania in 1963. After a short period in the hospital, he moved to the Department of Pharmacology of the University of Milan, where he started to work in cell biology. Since 1968, at the Rockefeller University of New York and back to Milan (1970), he worked on membrane specificity, traffic and fusion, first in exocrine and then (1980) in neurosecretory cells and synapses. For many years he has worked on Ca2+ regulation, in collaboration with the group of Tullio Pozzan in Padua; on astrocytes as neurosecretory cells; on receptor signal transduction. The isolation in his laboratory of PC12 cell clones spontaneously defective of neurosecretion provided the tools for two main lines of research: about enlargeosomes, a new type of exocytic, non-secretory organelles; and about the mechanisms governing neurosecretion in differentiated nerve cells. Jacopo Meldolesi is Professor of General Pharmacology at the San Raffaele University of Milan. He is a member of EMBO (1984) and of Academias, Europaea and dei Lincei. He has been the President of SINS and FISV. He has received several awards, national and international. He worked in the development of the PRIN research funding program and in many research evaluation programs. He is actively interested in the future of basic research in our country.

Wednesday, 24 September

Tim Townes

The major interest of my laboratory is the regulation of gene expression during development. We study the human hemoglobin genes as a model system and translate our understanding of basic mechanisms of globin gene regulation into strategies to correct hemoglobinopathies such as beta-thalassemia and sickle cell disease. Our work focuses on the following 4 areas: (1) Globin gene switching during development (2) Locus Control Region regulation of chromatin structure and gene expression (3) Genetic modifiers of sickle cell disease severity and (4) Gene replacement therapy using induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) Cells.

Thursday, 25 September

Enrico Coen

Enrico Coen obtained a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics at Cambridge University in 1982. After a brief postdoc at Cambridge, he moved to the John Innes Centre, Norwich, where he began using Antirrhinum as a model system to study plant development and evolution. Based on the results of an extensive mutational screen, he proposed that the ground plan of a flower depends on the combinatorial action of homeotic genes acting along the radial and dorsoventral axes of the flower. More recently, he has started to explore ways of bridging the gap between gene action and the development and evolution of shape. This has involved collaborations with computer scientists to develop methods for quantitative modelling of plant growth and form. For example, he has integrated clonal and computational analysis to determine growth parameters and develop hypotheses for how petal shape is controlled. He has also begun to investigate problems such as leaf curvature and the evolution of leaf and flower shape. In addition to publishing in scientific journals, Enrico Coen has also tried to communicate some key principles in his area to a broad audience through articles in popular journals and in his book The Art of Genes. This reflects his interests in clarifying fundamental concepts in biology and showing how they can enrich our understanding of the world. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a foreign member of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Friday, 26 September

Antonella Viola

Antonella Viola completed her Ph.D. at the University of Padua, Italy, in 1995 before working as scientific member at the Basel Institute of Immunology, Switzerland, and the EMBL in Monterotondo, Italy. In 2001 she set up her own group in Padua, Italy, at the Venetian Institute of Molecular Medicine (VIMM) and in 2006 she became head of the Laboratory of Adaptive Immunity at the Humanitas Clinical Institute (ICH), Milan, Italy. She is Assistant Professor of Pathology at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Milan. In 2005 she received the "Cancer Research Investigator Award" (CRI, New York, US) and in 2006 she has been elected EMBO Young Investigator. Antonella Viola’s main interests are related to T-lymphocyte activation in health and diseases. She discovered several novel mechanisms responsible for amplification of signal transduction at the immunological synapse. She also discovered a structural and functional connection between mitochondria and cell migration. In addition, she defined the molecular basis for cancer-induced immunosuppression in prostate cancer patients.

Saturday, 27 September

Venki Ramakrishnan

Venki Ramakrishnan grew up in India and went to the U.S.A. over 30 years ago at the age of 19. After initially being trained as a physicist at Ohio University, he switched to biology in 1976 at the University of California, San Diego. His interest in ribosomes dates back to 30 years ago when he joined Peter Moore’s laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University. He began his independent career at Brookhaven National Laboratory, in 1983. In 1995 he moved to the University of Utah to become a professor of biochemistry. Finally, in 1999, he moved to his current position as a scientist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. In the past, he has also been interested in chromatin structure and in x-ray crystallographic methods. He currently focuses entirely on ribosome structure and function. In 2000, his laboratory determined the atomic structure of the 30S ribosomal subunit and its complexes with ligands and antibiotics. This work has led to insights into how the ribosome “reads” the genetic code, as well as into various aspects of antibiotic function. In 2006, his laboratory determined the atomic structure of the entire ribosome bound to its mRNA and tRNA substrates. Ramakrishan is a Fellow of the Royal Society (UK) and a Member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).

Main Speakers

Wednesday, 24 September

Francesco Blasi

Francesco Blasi, born in 1937, received his MD degree in 1961, Lib. Doc. General Pathology in 1968, and became Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Naples in 1980. Formerly Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) and at the University of Milan, he his currently Professor of Molecular Biology at the Faculty of Medicine, Universitŕ Vita-Salute, H. S. Raffaele, Milan, and Head of Molecular Genetics Unit at S. Raffaele Scientific Institute and of the Transcriptional Regulation in Cancer and Development Unit, IFOM (FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology, Milan). He is member of EMBO, the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences, and Academia Europea. Dr Blasi was the recipient of a Fogarty Scholarship Award from NIH in 1983, a Doctor Honoris Causa from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Copenhagen, in 1994, and the International Society of Fibrinolysis and Thrombolysis Prize in the same year. He is the author of over 250 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals. His scientific interests include the discovery of the Attenuation Regulatory Mechanism in Escherichia coli (1978), and the discovery of the urokinase receptor and study of its role in migration and invasion and stem cells functions. Currently, he focuses on the role of homeodomain proteins in Hematopoietic Development, tumorigenesis and lymphomagenesis.

Wednesday, 24 September

Gines Morata

Ginés Morata is Research Professor at the Centro de Biología Molecular in Madrid. He obtained his Ph.D. under the supervision of Antonio Garcia-Bellido. As a graduate student he developed (in collaboration with Pedro Ripoll) the Minute technique of clonal analysis and discovered the phenomenon of ‘cell competition’, much in vogue these days. He is a co-discoverer of compartments in Drosophila. He spent some years at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge (UK) where, in collaboration with Peter Lawrence, he studied the early events of developmental compartmentalization and the role of engrailed and wingless in the process. After his return to Madrid, his laboratory focused on the study of Hox and other developmental genes. The genetic/developmental analysis of the bithorax complex carried out in his laboratory established the genetic structure of the complex. It was later found that Hox complexes in all animals share the same organization. More recently he has been concerned with the general problem of growth control and related phenomena such as apoptosis and tumour formation.

Wednesday, 24 September

Eduardo Moreno

Eduardo Moreno received his Ph.D. training in the laboratory of G. Morata in Madrid, Spain at the Centre for Molecular Biology of the Autonoma University. During his Ph.D. work he found the gene caudal and showed it was responsible for the identity of the last segment in Drosophila melanogaster. As a postdoctoral fellow, he began studying the phenomenon of cell competition, work he started in the Morata laboratory and continued in the laboratory of Konrad Basler, at the Institute of Molecular Biology of the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Moreno, Basler and Morata obtained evidence that proliferating cells compete for the internalization of extracellular factors that promote growth and survival. Subsequently, Moreno and Basler discovered super-competition, potentially connecting cell competition to cancer. Currently, he is a group leader at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas, Madrid, Spain.

Wednesday, 24 September

Pier Paolo Pandolfi

Pier Paolo Pandolfi received his MD in 1989 and his Ph.D. in 1996 from the University of Perugia, Italy, after having studied Philosophy at the University of Rome, Italy. He received post-graduate training at the National Institute for Medical Research and the University of London in the UK. He became an Assistant Member of the Molecular Biology Program and the Department of Human Genetics at Memorial-Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in 1994. Dr Pandolfi grew through the ranks to become a Member in the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program at the Sloan Kettering Institute; Professor of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics at the Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences at Cornell University; Professor, Molecular Biology in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Weill Medical College at Cornell University; and Head of the Molecular and Developmental Biology Laboratories at MSKCC. Dr Pandolfi was also the incumbent of the Albert C. Foster Endowed Chair for Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Last year, Dr Pandolfi left MSKCC after accepting an offer from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr Pandolfi presently holds the Reisman Endowed Chair of Medicine and is Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School. He serves as the Associate Director, Beth Israel Deaconess Cancer Center; Director, Cancer Genetics Program; and Chief, Division of Genetics in the Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and is a Member of the Department of Pathology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The research carried out in Dr Pandolfi’s laboratory has been seminal at elucidating the molecular mechanisms and the genetics underlying the pathogenesis of leukemias, lymphomas and solid tumors as well as in modeling these cancers in the mouse. Dr Pandolfi and colleagues have characterized the function of the fusion oncoproteins and the genes involved in the chromosomal translocations of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), as well as of major tumor suppressors such as PTEN and p53, and novel proto-oncogenes such as POKEMON. The elucidation of the molecular basis underlying APL pathogenesis has led to the development of novel and effective therapeutic strategies. As a result of these efforts, APL is now considered a curable disease. Novel therapeutic concepts have emerged from this work are currently being tested in clinical trials.

Thursday, 25 September

Evan Eichler

Evan Eichler, Ph.D., is a Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator in the Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington School of Medicine. He graduated with a B.Sc. Honours degree in Biology from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada in 1990. He received his Ph.D. in 1995 from the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston. After a Hollaender post-doctoral fellowship at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, he joined the faculty of Case Western Reserve University in 1997 and later the Department of Genome Sciences in 2004. He was a March of Dimes Basil O’Connor Scholar (1998-2001), was appointed as a HHMI Investigator (2005), and was awarded an AAAS Fellowship (2006). He is an editor of Genome Research and has served on various scientific advisory boards for both NIH and NSF. His research group provided the first genome-wide view of segmental duplications within human and other primate genomes and he is a leader in an effort to identify and sequence normal and disease-causing structural variation in the human genome. The long-term goal of his research is to understand the evolution and mechanisms of recent gene duplication and its relationship to structural variation and human disease.

Thursday, 25 September

Richard Redon

Richard Redon received his Ph.D. from the University of Strasbourg in 2002, for his study on chromosomal imbalances associated with the progression of head and neck tumours. In 2003, he joined the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and applied the method of microarray-based comparative genomic hybridisation for the detection of sub-microscopic chromosomal imbalances causing learning disability and congenital malformations. He progressively focused his work on high resolution mapping of copy number changes and initiated in 2005, as a member of the Genome Structural Variation Consortium, a comprehensive survey of DNA copy number variation in Humans.

Thursday, 25 September

Mariano Rocchi

Mariano Rocchi obtained his doctoral degree in Biology from the University of Rome in 1975. He then held positions at The Pediatric Hospital in Trieste (1976-1984), and the Gaslini Institute in Genoa (1984-1988). In 1989, he was a visiting scientist at the Wayne State University in Detroit. In that period, he extensively used somatic cell hybrid technology for human gene mapping. In 1990, he moved to the University of Bari as full professor in Genetics. In recent years, his group has focused on the karyotype evolution of primates using a punctuated analysis to track synteny conservation. He collaborated, using molecular cytogenetic techniques, in the sequence assembly of chimpanzee, macaque, orangutan, and marmoset genomes. Using molecular cytogenetics, his group disclosed an unpredicted phenomenon Evolutionary New Centromeres (ENC) which is the movement of the centromere along the chromosome during evolution without any change in marker order. This phenomenon is relatively widespread and frequent. ENC has had a significant impact on shaping chromosomal architecture in primates, in the dispersal of segmental duplications in the genome, and, probably, in speciation.

Thursday, 25 September

Orsetta Zuffardi

Orsetta Zuffardi has a degree in Biological Science. She is full Professor of Medical Genetics at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Pavia since 1989. Her main scientific interest had always been on genotype/phenotype relationship and on the molecular causes of chromosome rearrangements. Historical papers are those hypothesizing that factors influencing male fertility are located on Yq (Localization of factors controlling spermatogenesis in the nonfluorescent portion of the human Y chromosome long arm. Hum Genet. 1976 28;34:119-24), that a gene influencing stature had to be located at the distal region of sex chromosomes (The role of Yp in sex determination: new evidence from X/Y translocations. Am J Med Genet. 1982;12:175-84) and that one demonstrating that duplication of DAZ1 are associated to XY sex reversal (A dosage sensitive locus at chromosome Xp21 is involved in male to female sex reversal. Nat Genet. 1994 7:497-501). The most important recent papers are that one demonstrating that some apparently de novo rearrangements are the recombinant products of cryptic inversions (Olfactory receptor-gene clusters, genomic-inversion polymorphisms, and common chromosome rearrangements. Am J Hum Genet. 2001 68:874-83), that one demonstrating that 40% of apparently balanced reciprocal translocations associated with an abnormal phenotype are unbalanced for the presence of cryptic deletions (Cryptic deletions are a common finding in "balanced" reciprocal and complex chromosome rearrangements: a study of 59 patients. J Med Genet. 2007 44:750-62) and that one demonstrating that 7% of ring chromosomes are not only deleted but also duplicated (Duplications in addition to terminal deletions are present in a proportion of ring chromosomes: clues to the mechanisms of formation. J Med Genet. 2008 Mar;45(3):147-54. ).

Saturday, 27 September

Pascal Genschik

Pascal Genschik received his Ph.D. from the University of Strasbourg (France) and was a postdoc at the Friedrich Miescher Institute (Switzerland), before setting up his own group at the Institut de Biologie Moléculaire des Plantes du CNRS (Strasbourg). He is currently the scientific Director of this Institute. His main research interest is the function of ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis in the control of plant development and phytohormone hormonal signaling. Among his achievements are studies of various ubiquitin protein ligases in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the identification of the function of proteolysis in ethylene and other signalling pathways.

Saturday, 27 September

Maria Masucci

Maria G. Masucci received her MD degree at the University of Ferrara in 1977 and specialization in Experimental Oncology at the same University in 1980. She moved to Sweden already in 1977 where she obtained her PhD in Tumor Biology at Karolinska Institutet in 1985. Since 1997 she is Professor of Virology at the Karolinska Institutet. Her research aims to understand how tumor viruses can stimulate cell growth and promote malignant transformation and how the immune defenses of the body deal with these abnormal cells. Her studies on viral subversion of the cellular environment are particularly focused on the ubiquitin proteasome system. She is a member of the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institutet since 2002 and became a member of EMBO and of the Swedish Royal Academy of Science in 2006.

Saturday, 27 September

Frauke Melchior

Frauke Melchior is Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Göttingen, Germany. Her training included studies of Chemistry at the Universities of Marburg and Bristol, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry. After a first postdoc at the Max-Planck-Institute (MPI) for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, she joined Larry Gerace at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, USA, to work on nucleocytoplasmic transport in mammalian cells. There she described the GTPase Ran as an essential factor for protein import, and subsequently discovered posttranslational modification with the ubiquitin-related protein SUMO. She then moved to the MPI for Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany, where she continued to work on SUMO as an independent group leader (1998 - 2004). In recognition of her work, she received the BioFUTURE award of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and was elected as an EMBO member in 2007. Current research in her group involves identification and analysis of enzymes involved in the SUMO pathway, characterization of SUMO targets and interactors, and investigation of sumoylation in the context of redox signalling and oxidative stress.

Saturday, 27 September

Simona Polo

Simona Polo received her Degree in Biology at the University of Milan (Italy) in 1991, with a thesis in Genetics. She did postdoctoral work at DIBIT, HSR, where she studied chemokine-mediated inhibition of HIV entry into cells. In 1999 she joined the group of Pier Paolo Di Fiore at the IEO, first as senior fellow and then as a staff scientist, acquiring a strong expertise in the field of endocytosis. At that time, she started to work on the role of ubiquitin in the signalling and internalization of EGFR. Since 2005, she is Group Leader at the IFOM-IEO campus and Researcher at the Department of Medicine, Surgery and Dentistry of the University of Milan. Polo’s group gave an important contribution to the comprehension of the molecular mechanisms underlying the post-translational modification of proteins by monoubiquitin. The existence of a vast and dynamic array of Ub signals, not uniquely devoted to degradation, raises the central question of how specificity is achieved during conjugation, recognition, and signal transduction. Simona Polo’s recent efforts are dedicated to “decode” the Ub-based signalling networks using a combination of functional genomic approaches.