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Independent research, 8 scientists under 40 awarded

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Independent research, 8 scientists under 40 awarded

Is it possible to improve the lives of young patients with leukemia? More effectively treat breast cancer patients or those with glioblastoma? Understanding what happens in the long term to children who have had Covid? Developing a liquid artificial retina? Investigate the cellular mechanisms underlying haemophilia A and cerebral ischemia? Monitor patients remotely effectively? The answer is yes. How? Thanks to the 8 winning projects of the “Roche Foundation for independent research”, now in its sixth edition. These are researchers under 40 from all over Italy, funded with a total of 400 thousand euros (50 thousand each), after having passed a selection of 263 projects and having been evaluated by Springer Nature.

“Independent research in Italy has always been at the heart of the Roche Foundation’s activities – declared Mariapia Garavaglia, President of the Roche Foundation. We are sure that investing in young researchers is an enormous value for our country. Today more than ever, in fact, we must commit ourselves to rebuilding a system that responds to the ever-changing demands for health and continue to seek solutions capable of improving people’s health in all therapeutic areas. It is therefore necessary to invest in young researchers to cultivate talents in our country and to contribute to the economic development of the Italian system ”.

Since its launch, the “Roche Foundation for Independent Research” Call has allocated over 4 million euros, establishing itself as one of the most successful initiatives in this area: over 2300 projects have been nominated over the years, of which 263 only for this edition, and 56 those funded so far, of which over 65% presented by young researchers. and the seventh edition is expected to be launched next November.

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“Today more than ever, investing in the talent of young people must be a priority for our country, and initiatives like this allow us to express the power of research also through diversity. We must ensure that female researchers are retained and encouraged so that they can give their best, indeed more and more “, said Ilaria Capua, Director of the One Health University of Florida center of excellence, who attended the awards ceremony.

The winners, 6 researchers and 2 researchers

Onco-hematology. Fabrizia Bonacina, University of Milan

The project aims to study the alterations in the immune cells of those recovered from leukemia by offering new diagnostic, therapeutic and information scenarios on their cardiovascular risk. The search for new therapies for acute lymphoblastic leukemia assures a future for many children, but their long-term consequences are less known. Irradiation and subsequent stem cell transplantation represent the therapy with the highest probability of complications in adulthood, particularly in the cardiovascular system.

Personalized Medicine. Virginia Brancato, Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) Foundation of Milan

Breast cancer has a high diversity among patients and the Mimetic project (MIcroenvironMent hETerogeneIty Cancer): it intends to study the genes involved in this heterogeneity and their epigenetic regulation, taking into account not only cancer cells but also their interaction with the surrounding microenvironment. The project will be possible thanks to advanced genomics / epigenomics techniques and the use of organoid models. Understanding tumor heterogeneity will help understand the causes of resistance to cancer treatments and develop more personalized therapies.

COVID-19. Danilo Buonsenso, A. Gemelli University Hospital Foundation IRCCS of Rome

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The project will focus on defining the immunological characteristics of a cohort of children with Long Covid, compared with a group of minors who have completely recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection. In particular, there
we will focus on immune profile studies and circulating mRNA analyzes to look for the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying pediatric Long Covid. The immunological data will then be compared with the data of a clinical follow-up
specialist.

Oncology. Stefania Faletti, European Institute of Oncology in Milan

Glioblastoma is an extremely lethal brain tumor. Diagnosis is often late and this prevents starting treatment at an early stage. Furthermore, each patient’s tumor has molecular characteristics that make it almost unique, and for this reason the current standard therapies fail to be effective for everyone. The purpose of this project is to develop a “liquid biopsy”, that is an examination that allows to diagnose, characterize, and monitor the progress of the glioblastoma through a simple blood test, guiding the creation of a personalized therapeutic protocol for each patient and during the entire duration of your medical history.

Ophthalmology. Simona Francia, Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) Foundation of Genoa

The ReVISION project aims to functionalize polymeric nanoparticles of a photovoltaic nature in order to create a liquid, biocompatible and injectable artificial prosthesis under the retina in animal models of Retinitis pigmentosa, characterized by the absence of photoreceptors which leads to blindness. Our research team has shown that nanoparticles stimulate, in a light-dependent manner, neurons in the retina that survived degeneration. Their functionalization will increase the recovery of visual functions, laying the foundations for clinical studies in patients with retinal degeneration.

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Hereditary diseases of coagulation. Cristina Olgasi, University of Eastern Piedmont of Novara

The project aims to study the role of FVIII in coagulation beyond haemostasis. Lack of FVIII causes hemophilia A, a genetic disorder associated with spontaneous bleeding or following trauma. On the basis of recent studies, which highlight endothelial dysfunction in haemophilic patients, we want to investigate the role of FVIII in maintaining endothelial stability by evaluating whether there is a difference in gene and functional expression between healthy and haemophilic cells.

Digital medicine. Francesco Salton, Giuliano-Isontina University Health Authority of Trieste
The project aims to use the ‘Butterflife’ telemonitoring device, which, simply held with both hands for 90 seconds, uses an artificial intelligence-based system to measure the most important vital parameters at the patient’s home and send them in real time. to the doctor. This technology could make it possible to safely activate an alternative home management activity to hospitalization for people with respiratory compromise secondary to Covid-19, reducing the burden on hospitals in terms of costs and saturation of beds.

Neuroscience. Valentina Tedeschi, University of Naples Federico II

The project aims to investigate the pathogenetic mechanisms underlying cerebral ischemia, analyzing the role of lysosomal ion channels in maintaining intracellular calcium homeostasis in different components of the neurovascular unit (neurons, glial cells, endothelial cells). The final goal will be to identify new pharmacological targets and to identify new molecules capable of reducing neuroinflammation, preserving the integrity of the blood brain barrier through the pharmacological modulation of these targets.
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