DBB: Department of Excellence 2018-2022
The Minister of University Research awarded 180 state departments for the quality of research as "Departments of Excellence". The DBB, one of the 13 Italian departments awarded in the biological area, has been funded of more than 7.3 million euros for the five-year period 2018-2022. The total investment is over 14 million euros, thanks to a significant co-financing on its own resources.
The project addresses four major scientific challenges, and includes the recruitment of highly qualified staff, the activation of numerous positions for young researchers, scholarships for young undergraduates and foreign PhD students among the numerous foreseen activities.
- Healthy aging: our country is among the firsts in the world in terms of longevity, with life expectancy at birth of 83 years. Aging is often accompanied by pathological processes, including chronic diseases such as cardiovascular, neurodegeneration, infertility and cancer. Through an integrated approach, new strategies are identified to improve healthy aging thanks to innovative drug treatments, molecular approaches of "drug discovery" and "drug design" and cellular therapies.
- Antibiotic resistance: the intensive and inappropriate use of antibiotics dramatically increased the emergence of resistant strains of pathogens. In Italy, 7-10% of hospitalized patients get a multi-resistant bacterial infection. The activities of the DBB are focused on genomic analysis of bacterial strains responsible for nosocomial infections. Bioinformatic models for the prediction of the occurrence and spread of epidemic events and the identification of new molecular targets are studied for therapeutic or preventive strategies.
- Migrations: human migration flows, due to economic and social causes, are redrawing the political geography worldwide. Italy has one of the most important biological remains in the world belonging to different eras and civilizations. This under-explored "paleogenomic capital" is studied this project. At the same time, mass movements, associated with environmental change, are widening insects, parasites and pathogens distribution area, thus triggering new strategies to control the organisms that transmit infectious agents.
- Environmental sustainability: the reduction in the consumption of natural resources, the development of innovative materials with reduced environmental impact, the efficient and eco-sustainable reuse, are urgencies that industrial, plant biotechnology and green chemistry must address. The DBB seeks to improve the management of renewable biological resources, generating new molecules and enzymes that drive the development of sustainable economy (green economy).
The project involves the set up of five Facilities:
- Molecular and Cellular Biology Facility: with cutting-edge high-resolution instruments
- Plant Biology Facility: a greenhouse for growing plants in a controlled environment
- Ancient DNA Laboratory: the first in north-western Italy for the study of biologic remains
- BSL2 facility: specialized in the study and manipulation of pathogens
- Optogenetics laboratory: for the study of neurons and cardiomyocytes