- Head of the Translational Research Unit, INMI, Rome, Italy
- Clinical trials (design, management, interpretation) involving diagnostic tests developed at INMI
- Project coordination and INMI representative in international collaborations involving development of immune diagnostic tests for infections
- Design of new immunodiagnostics for infection with M. tuberculosis
- Correlates of disease, infection, protection and risk of tuberculosis
- Characterization of immune-responses induced by chronic infections and by vaccines
- Biomarkers – assay development and validation
- Design of clinical trials for new immune diagnostic tests for tuberculosis
The “Translational research unit” has as its mission to transfer knowledge gained from basic research to the clinic of infectious diseases in order to improve the quality of patient care. In particular, our tasks are to carry out experimental research for the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches aimed at improving care for patients with infectious diseases. In particular we are interested in:
- evaluating in vitro tools to distinguish active tuberculosis from latent tuberculosis infection using approaches different from those employed by the commercial interferon-g release assays (IGRA). Therefore, compared to commercial IGRA, we used a different antigen format (peptides selected from ESAT-6 and CFP-10), antigens different from ESAT-6 and CFP-10 as those related with latency (Rv2628, HBHA), immune markers different from IFN-g (IP-10), biological samples different from blood (broncholavage, urine). The studies were performed in Europe (Italy and collaborators from TBnet), Africa (Uganda, Tanzania), Asia (India) by projects funded by the Italian Ministry of Health, European Community, Fondation Mérieux.
- studying by cytometry the specific immune response to tuberculosis evaluating the mono-polyfunctional T cells and their phenotype within the CD4 and CD8 T cells
- Group leader at the Cell Biology Unit, INMI, Rome, Italy
- Associate Professor of Cell Biology, University of Salento, Lecce, Italy
- Characterization of molecular mechanisms that regulate the autophagic process.
- Role of autophagy in the innate immune response to M. tuberculosis, HCV and HIV infections.
- Proteomic analysis of host-pathogen interactions.
The Cell Biology laboratory is dedicated to the study of the host cell response to pathogen infections, with particular focus on the role of the apoptotic and autophagic processes. The expertise of the lab includes molecular biology, cell biology, gene expression and proteomics.
The lab is equipped with a fully automated “systems biology” platform including a MALDI TOF/TOF mass spectrometer, bidimensional gel electrophoresis, HPLC, DNA microarray, as well as with Confocal and Electron Microscopes.
Current research interests related to the proposal are focused on the role of autophagy in innate immune response to M. tuberculosis. In particular, we have shown that MTB inhibits autophagy in human primary macrophages and dendritic cells, and that autologous MTB-specific T cells are able to restore a functional autophagic process.
Our role in the project, in collaboration with Goletti Unit, will be to measure the levels of autophagy in PBMC from M. tuberculosis-infected patients in relation with immune/microbiological/radiological/clinical parameters assessed in different cohorts to assess their potential as correlates of risk of TB disease.
Important collaboration to accomplish the project: professor Daniela Maria Cirillo, director of the WHO/Union TB Supranational Reference laboratory and WHO Collaborating Centre for “integrated laboratory strengthening on tuberculosis and other emerging infections”, Emerging Bacterial Pathogens Unit, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy.