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Tigem, Alberto Auricchio is the new director

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Tigem, Alberto Auricchio is the new director

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After 30 years, the management of Tigem, the Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine of Pozzuoli, changes: Andrea Ballabio passes the baton to Alberto Auricchio, former coordinator of the molecular therapy program of the institute, the first founded by Telethon in 1994 with the mission to study the mechanisms underlying rare genetic diseases and develop innovative therapies. The appointment comes after a selection process open to scientists from all over the world, conducted by a commission made up of six scientists of international stature.

Alberto Auricchio, full professor of Medical Genetics at the Federico II University of Naples, thus collects an important legacy, made up of excellence achieved in the field of research into rare genetic diseases. At Tigem, which also took part in the Human Genome Project, numerous genes responsible for genetic diseases were identified and, starting from 2016, one of the main programs in Italy for undiagnosed diseases was launched. The contribution on the precision medicine front is also very important, especially for gene therapy of eye and metabolic diseases. A value also confirmed by industrial agreements and spin-offs born from projects of the institute: among these AAVantgarde Bio, founded by Auricchio himself and dedicated to the development of new gene therapy platforms for hereditary forms of blindness capable of overcoming a of the main current limits, the transport “capacity” of viral vectors.

Focus: translational medicine

« My background is strongly oriented towards translational research, and this is the focus that I wish to further impart to the Institute in the coming years – declared the new director, Alberto Auricchio – Maintaining the very high scientific level of Tigem, combining its soul of basic with the translational one, it will be a stimulating but at the same time demanding challenge. I know I can count on the support of the Institute and of an ecosystem that includes the Foundation, its spin-offs, the Universities with their hospital companies, the CNR and the local authorities with whom we have been linked by a fruitful collaboration for years. I am therefore convinced that, by working together, we will be able to achieve the ambitious goal of translating our discoveries into treatments for patients with rare genetic diseases.”

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Andrea Ballabio, full professor of Medical Genetics at the Federico II University of Naples and visiting professor at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston (USA), has directed Tigem since its foundation. His group is responsible for the discovery of an important mechanism that allows cells to dispose of toxic substances, which is very relevant for the development of therapeutic approaches for genetic storage diseases and also for some forms of cancer. Precisely for this discovery he received – the first in Italy – the 2016 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine, a prestigious award given every year to leading researchers in Europe.

30 years of history

“One day, way back in 1994, I received a phone call that changed my life. I was in Houston, Texas, running a research laboratory in the largest medical center in the world. The person calling me was Mrs. Susanna Agnelli to propose that, on behalf of the Telethon Foundation, I return to my country to create a new research institute. Once the proposal was accepted, I returned to Italy together with a small group of young researchers in love with their work to create Tigem – recalled Andrea Ballabio -. 30 years later, I can say that accepting that proposal was one of the best decisions I made in my life.”

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