Notes from the Director, Lisa Mayer

Lisa Mayer

Lisa Mayer

We are in the midst of another productive year at the Armenise-Harvard Foundation.  The fall capped an extremely rewarding application cycle for the Career Development Award Program (CDA), with many talented candidates.  The Italian Scientific Advisory Committee interviewed semi-finalists and chose the winners in early winter.  We are pleased to announce that Dr. Annalisa DiRuscio, currently at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA and Dr. Dario Bonanomi, currently at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, CA will be the newest additions to this very successful program.  Dr. Bonanomi will be joining the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, and Dr. DiRuscio will be moving to the University of Eastern Piedmont in Novara, Italy.

In early November, current CDAs were highlighted during a day-long event in Rome, co-hosted by Senator Elena Cattaneo, who also serves on our Italian Scientific Advisory Committee.  The meeting was attended by journalists and political colleagues from the Senate.  An eight-minute video was shown during the event, produced by Marco Motta and his colleague Stefano Faraon.  Mr. Motta is a past recipient of the Foundation’s Science Writer Fellowship.  The Call for the 2016 Career Development Award application cycle is now live and applications are available on this website, under Grants/Career Development Awards.  The deadline is July 15.

In mid-February, the Armenise Summer Fellows’ review committee, led by Dr. Annarita Patrizi, interviewed and selected the 2015 class, consisting of six women and four men.  These ten talented Italian university students will spend the summer in Boston, working in Harvard or Harvard-affiliated laboratories, and we cannot wait to welcome them.  Their predecessors, in the last five years, have gone on to graduate programs and job placements all over the world.

The Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board, chaired by Professor Peter Howley, will review nominees for our Junior Faculty Grant Program later this spring.  This year’s awardees will join an extremely illustrious group of past recipients.

The Foundation’s various review committees, on both sides of the Atlantic, do such stellar work that it is not surprising that our grantees attract additional accolades.  Our Career Development Awardees are a very productive group, publishing papers and building their laboratory teams with Italian graduate students and post-docs.  Claudia Lodovichi has recently published a paper with a Harvard professor, Dr. Venkatesh Murthy, in the Journal of Neuroscience.  Alberto Bacci has a paper in PLoS Biology and Eelco van Anken is recently published in eLife Sciences, to name a few.  Visit their websites (Grants/Career Development Awards/previous recipients) for more on their recent work.

Excellence, an invigoration of basic science in Italy and the U.S., working towards achieving answers in the fight against human disease… these were the goals of the late Count Giovanni Auletta Armenise, now continued by his son, Count Giampiero Auletta Armenise.  We are so gratified to be able to continue his dream.

Aldo D’Imperio worked in Prof. Alan D’Andrea’s lab at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.  His talk was on “Critical mutations in FANCG and the essential function of FANCD2 in BRCA1 and BRCA2 deficient cells”.  Aldo’s supervisor in the lab was Raphäel Ceccaldi.  Erica Grignaschi presented on “Seeding neuroblastoma human cells as a model for aggregation in Parkinson’s disease”.  She worked in Prof. Dennis Selkoe’s lab, supervised by Dr. Tim Bartels and helped by a former Summer Fellow (2014) Matteo Rovere.

Claudia Latini spoke on “The role of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis related protein in transcription coupled splicing”.  Her work was done in Prof. Robin Reed’s lab in Harvard Medical School’s Cell Biology Department, and she was supervised and helped greatly by Binkai Chi and Alex Iocolano.

Luigi Petrucco gave a talk on “Investigating neural circuit activity by voltage sensitive dyes and two-photon imaging”, done in Prof. Takao Hensch’s lab in the Center for Brain Science at Children’s Hospital.  Luigi expressed gratitude  for the help of Erin Diel and Edward Soucy.

Thomas Perli worked in Prof. Pamela Silver’s lab, in the HMS Department of Systems Biology.  His talk was on “Creating tools for gene regulation in synechococcus Elongatus PC7942”, and he warmly thanked his supervisors, Isaac Plant and Stephanie Hays.

Matteo Naldini spoke on the “Onconogenic role of circRNA M27 in prostate cancer”.  His work was done in the lab of Prof. Pier Paolo Pandolfi, at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and he wanted to thank Marco Bezzi and Jlenia Guarnerio for their help supervising him this summer.

Michela Zaffagni was the final student to present, with a talk titled, “Fibroblasts support cancer cells drug resistance”.  She worked in the lab of Prof. Joan Brugge in the HMS Department of Cell Biology, and thanked her supervisor Ioannis Zervantonakis, as well as the rest of the lab staff, who were extraordinarily kind during her stay.

The 2015 Summer Fellows Research Day concluded with remarks from the Italian Consul General of Boston, Nicola De Santis, who was pleased to join the group and commend them on their success with the summer program.   He encouraged them to consider coming back to Boston at some point in their academic career, as part of the preparation for their ultimate return to Italy.  The group was grateful for the Consul General’s gracious speech and for his willingness to be a part of the celebration of their achievement.

Finally, everyone from the students to the Armenise Harvard Foundation staff, expressed profound gratitude to Dr. Annarita Patrizi, the Director of the program, who has worked hard through the application cycle and the entire summer, to make this an experience they will never forget.  Part of the students’ obligation is the promise to continue to stay in touch with us, and we look forward to seeing the evolution of their scientific careers.