IFOM Simona Polo

Simona Polo

Dr. Simona Polo, an expert in molecular and cell biology, is the director of the Molecular Machines in Signaling Pathways research program at IFOM since 2005.

Dr. Polo was born in Milan in 1968 and studied biological sciences at the University of Milan under the supervision of Prof. Daniela Ghisotti, graduating cum laude in 1991 and honorable mention. Her thesis on bacteriophage P4 received the price for the best thesis in genetics in 1991 from the AGI association.

From 1996 to 1999, Dr. Polo conducted postdoctoral research at San Raffaele scientific Institute, Milan, under the guidance of Prof. Paolo Lusso. During that period, she made important contributions to the understanding of the chemokine receptor CCR5 responsible for the HIV entry. She focused her studies on the molecular determinants of receptor binding, designing chemokines derivatives that act as natural antagonists of HIV. In 1999, Dr. Polo joined the group of Prof. Pier Paolo Di Fiore at the European Institute of Oncology (IEO), Milan, as staff scientist, and acquired a strong expertise in the field of endocytosis. At that time, she discovered and defined the role of ubiquitin in the internalization of the epidermal growth factor receptor, EGFR.

In 2005, Dr. Polo left the IEO and accepted the opportunity to develop her own line of research at IFOM and to study ubiquitin as a signaling device with a particular focus on cancer biology. The work of her laboratory in the last ten years has led to significant breakthroughs in the understanding of the ubiquitin system. She was among the first scientists to hypothesize and then provide evidence for that ubiquitin is a signaling device, using the EGFR pathway as a model system.

To name but a few, her first paper published in the field (Polo et al., Nature 2002) and her first senior-author paper (Sigismund et al PNAS 2005) have received more than 600 citations each.

In recognition of her studies, Dr. Polo received the prestigious EMBO Young Investigator award in 2009, and she was elected EMBO member in 2016.
In 2018, Dr. Polo received the gold medal ("Ambrogino d’Oro") from the Mayor of Milan. This prize is dedicated each year to a selection of personalities who have distinguished themselves for a significant contribution to the city of Milan in the field of entrepreneurship, culture, solidarity, science and research.

Dr. Polo was selected for her outstanding achievements in biology and for the rare ability to reconcile a scientific career with a family project.

Simona Polo is also Associate Professor at the Department of Oncology and Hemato-oncology, University of Milan

IFOM Review

Deubiquitination enzymes in the limelight
Commentary on Simona Polo's paper published on Current Biology, by Yossi Yarden (2015)
Ubiquitin and SUMO: an hands-on experience... by the sea
Personal memories for a memorable EMBO Practical Course organized by Simona Polo, by Ronald T. Hay (2013)
Illuminating a ubiquitin transfer relay, step-by-step
Commentary on Simona Polo's paper published on Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, by Brenda A. Schulman (2013)
complete review


Press releases


In the press

Il fermo immagine della proteina multitasking
Ansa Scienza

2013.05.10 | Elisa Buson

Tumori: italiana scatta fermo immagine di proteina factotum
Ansa Salute

2013.05.10 | Elisa Buson

Una fotografia molecolare per l'ubiquitina

2013.05.10 | Francesco Aiello