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Two million dollars for science from the Armenise-Harvard Foundation

April 8, 2013

The return of two young researchers to IFOM and the University of Pavia 

Boston-Florence, April 2013. The team of researchers funded by the Armenise-Harvard Foundation through the Career Development Award program is growing and now has 18 precious members. In fact, two more scientists are establishing their laboratories in Italy, Vincenzo Costanzo, who will relocate from London Research Institute to IFOM IFOM (Istituto FIRC di Oncologia Molecolare) in Milan, and Federico Forneris from the University of Utrecht who will come to the University of Pavia.

Vincenzo Costanzo will establish the DNA Metabolism research program at IFOM, the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology dedicated to studying the formation and development of tumors at the molecular level, with the goal of rapidly transferring results from the laboratory to diagnostic and therapeutic practice. Costanzo’s laboratory will addresses one of the greatest challenges in contemporary biomedical research: investigating the role of essential proteins involved in genome stability and in DNA metabolism.

Cells respond to DNA damage by activating a biological process known as the DNA damage response. Defects in this process can lead to genomic instability, namely the inability to maintain the correct DNA structure, a characteristic typical of cancer cells.
The vast majority of proteins involved in the DNA damage response is implicated also in genetic syndromes with exceedingly diverse symptoms but all are united by a single characteristic: high susceptibility to cancer.
Costanzo’s research aims to discover the roles of molecular factors of the DNA damage response in the DNA metabolism of vertebrates during DNA replication and repair, and as cells progress through the cell cycle. Costanzo will use a multidisciplinary approach, taking advantage of in vitro systems using cell-free extracts, mass spectrometry for analysis of protein-protein interaction circuits, antibody-based techniques, and advanced imaging techniques such as electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy for analyzing genome structure.
Costanzo’s research will be conducted in light of comparative studies with human cells and will integrate analyses of metabolism and development in order to understand the role of DNA metabolism genes in broader aspects of cellular physiology. These studies will help determine the biological function and biochemistry of genes involved in essential processes that, when they do not work properly, can lead to the development of cancer.
At IFOM Vincenzo Costanzo will join Stefano Casola who set up his Molecular Immunology and Biology of Lymphoma laboratory here in 2006. For Costanzo it will be a return to Italy sui generis: at IFOM he will find a stimulating scientific community with one quarter of the researchers coming from 27 different countries, worldwide.

last update: 28/10/13