Research Projects


Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action (MSCA) Innovative Training Networks (ITN) H2020-MSCA-ITN-2018

Financed by the European Commission, Contract number 813239

Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Wim Vranken

Primary Investigator: Dr. Tommaso Martelli


RNAct is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) for early stage researchers (ESR) funded by the European Commission under the H2020 Programme the EU framework programme for research and innovation.

The RNAct research focusses on proteins containing RNA Recognition Motifs (RRM) to posttranscriptionally regulate gene expression and detect specific RNAs. The ability to manipulate these RRMs has wide application potential in bio-analytics and for the creation of synthetic pathways in cells, for example by enabling their activation via small molecule triggers. The 10 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) trained through RNAct will acquire proficiency for molecular level work on proteins, with an understanding of both experiment and computation. In combination with complementary transversal and entrepreneurial skills training, this will enable the ESRs to constructively contribute to the European bio-economy in both academic and industry settings.

PhD project and application form

DICCAP “Dispositivo Innovativo per il Controllo in Continuo di Acido Peracetico”

Financed by the Tuscany Region

POR-FESR 2014-2020 D.D. nr. 5906 of November 20, 2015

Primary Investigator: Prof. Cristina Nativi

Researcher: Dr. Matteo Gentili, Dr. Tommaso Martelli

DICCAP has been recently funded in the frame of a call for projects of the Tuscany Region.

The project is intended to develop new technologies for the improvement of the standards of occupational safety and health. In particular, DICCAP project aims at addressing the problem of the detection of airborne Peracetic Acid in the workplace, an issue which has been recently become more and more serious.

Peracetic acid is a disinfectant with a high bactericidal, virucidal and sporicidal activity and it has been increasingly used over the past years as a safer and greener alternative to commonly used disinfectants. It is widely used for the sterilization of surgical instruments (endoscopes), for the disinfection of containers in the food industry and for the reduction of the bacterial load of waste waters, also thanks to its biocompatibility. Nevertheless it is a harmful compound, able to irritate eyes and mucous membranes even at very low concentrations with potentially lethal consequences; furthermore, its monitoring is still difficult, thus exposing the workers to potentially dangerous levels of this toxic chemical.

Within the DICCAP project, Giotto Biotech will develop a simple and user friendly system for the real time detection of toxic concentrations of Peracetic Acid with a potential strong impact on the safety of any worker dealing with this substance.

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Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action (MSCA) Innovative Training Networks (ITN) H2020-MSCA-ITN-2015

Financed by the European Commission, Contract number 6755555

Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Michael Sattler

Primary Investigator: Dr. Matteo Gentili

Researchers: Maxime Denis

AEGIS is a Marie Skłodowska -Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) for early stage researchers (ESR) funded by the European Commission under the H2020 Programme the EU framework programme for research and innovation.

The principal aim of the AEGIS ITN is to implement the first comprehensive, intersectoral cross-disciplinary and structured curriculum for doctoral students in the European Research Area by establishing a unique training platform for the next generation of European researchers in early drug discovery. A significant added value is provided through networking with key European pharmaceutical companies. A key research aim of AEGIS is improving the efficiency and success of early stage drug development by combining innovative methods and techniques to tackle difficult but promising targets (i.e. protein-protein interactions), as potentially valuable drug targets are often neglected due to the high risk associated with their validation.

IDPbyNMR “High resolution tools to understand the functional role of protein intrinsic disorder”


Financed by the European Commission, Contract number 264257

Primary Investigator: Dr. Tatiana Kozyreva

Researchers: Magdalena Korsak, Alexandra Louka

Recent evidence shows that a large share of proteins gain functional advantages by remaining natively unstructured, either completely or partially, thus challenging well-established concepts in structural biology. In this frame NMR plays a strategic role to characterize at atomic resolution the highly dynamical properties of such “intrinsically disordered proteins”, and follow their (possible) reorganization by interacting with partners in environments as complex as whole cells. In order to achieve the full potential of this approach current methods should be further developed and properly interfaced with other complementary techniques. The purpose of our network is thus to establish a framework to train a new generation of young researchers in this emerging area. Understanding the functional role of intrinsically disordered protein states, which are involved in many biochemical processes at the basis of life, is expected to have a significant impact in biomedical research and in the design of new drugs.

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pNMR “Pushing the Envelope of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy for Paramagnetic Systems. A Combined Experimental and Theoretical Approach”


Financed by the European Commission, Contract number 317127

Primary Investigator: Prof. Claudio Luchinat

Researcher: Dr. Tobias Schubeis

A network combining 9 academic research groups and 4 collaborating industrial companies is proposed to train the next generation of PhD students and post-doctoral researchers, in developing and applying novel experimental and theoretical methods in the NMR spectroscopy of systems containing paramagnetic metals. The assembled team, with researchers distributed throughout the EU, will investigate a variety of important problems in chemistry and biology including catalysts, battery materials, metalloproteins and large protein-protein assemblies. The researchers will be trained to attack key problems that prevent the widespread usage of NMR spectroscopy as applied to paramagnetic materials, and to develop new methods to improve significantly the structural and electronic information that can be obtained from these systems. Three experimental and theoretical work programs are proposed, which build on, but also move significantly beyond the recent advances in pNMR, many of which have originated from members of this network: i) developing experimental approaches for obtaining NMR spectra from challenging paramagnetic molecules and materials, ii) extending the fundamental theoretical understanding of pNMR parameters, and facilitating their quantum-chemical implementations in first-principles software; iii) attacking relevant chemical and biological problems, with novel techniques to determine structure (e.g., of insoluble proteins and disordered battery electrode materials), dynamics and reactivity around metal centres, and exploring interactions between, e.g., biomolecules, catalytic centres and supports. Integral to the research-based training programme is the series of workshops, practical training courses, international conferences, and outreach actions, located at the different sites. These will i) train the young researchers of the network in the basics of pNMR and ii) disseminate the results of the network to the larger NMR community and to the general public.

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Pathway-27 “Pivotal assesment of the effects of bioactives on health and wellbeing. From human genoma to food industry”

FP7-KBBE-THEME 2 2007-2013

Financed by the European Commission, Contract number 311876

Primary Investigator: Prof. Claudio Luchinat

Researcher: Dr. Panteleimon Takis

PATHWAY-27 is a research project carried out by a pan-European interdisciplinary team of 16 life/social scientists and 9 high tech/food processing SMEs. It will uniquely address the role and mechanisms of action of 3 bioactives: docosahexaenoic acid, β-glucan, anthocyanins. These have been chosen for known/claimed effectiveness in reducing some risk factors of Metabolic Syndrome (MS), enriching 3 different widely-consumed food matrices (dairy-, bakery-, egg products).

PATHWAY-27 will evaluate the effectiveness of the chosen bioactives as ingredient of enriched foods, evaluating both the bioactive-food matrix interactions and of the extent of synergism between the 3 active molecules. The project will determine the impact of the bioactive enriched foods (BEF) on physiologically-relevant endpoints related to MS risk and deliver a better understanding of the role and mechanisms of action of the 3 bioactives and BEF. Parallel in vitro/in vivo studies and the use of advanced omics techniques will enable the selection of robust biomarkers to be used in the evaluation of BEF effectiveness.

The final PATHWAY-27 deliverables will include not only the formulation and production of BEF having a demonstrated effect in MS dietary treatment, but also generic protocols, best practices and guidelines for planning dietary interventions, and guidance to SMEs for producing health-promoting BEF and for submitting convincing health claim dossiers to EFSA; the latter will be greatly facilitated by one SME partner who has submitted 3 successful dossiers.

PATHWAY-27 guidelines will apply to a wide range of bioactives and BEF, and therefore will be useful not only for partner SMES but suitable for a general use by the food industry.

The expected project impact will be optimised across Europe by targeted dissemination events to industry (especially SMEs), consumers and S&T stakeholders.

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BIOLABEL “Valorizzazione della biomassa algale per la marcatura isotopica delle biomolecole”

PROG. 5/10 – DECRETO MIUR DEL 7/7/2011 – RIF. ART. 11 D.M. 8/8/2000 N. 593

Financed by MIUR

Primary Investigator: Prof. Claudio Luchinat

Researchers: Dr. Letizia Barbieri, Dr. Valentina Borsi, Dr. Linda Cerofolini, Dr. Sara Neri, and Dr. Giacomo Sampietro

Biolabel project aimed to valorization of algal biomass for the isotopic labeling of biomolecules.

In particular, the project is intended as:

Phase 1 Optimization of production of isotopically labeled algal biomass

Optimization of algal growth parameters: carbon dioxide, nitrates, temperature, light intensity, pH.

Development of the equipment necessary for the optimal production of labeled biomass

Choice of best microalgae strain for the production of labeled material

Phase 2 Optimization of the use of isotopically labeled algal biomass

Identification of labeled biomolecules to be isolated from the algal biomass and its purification

Growth tests of microorganisms and/or cells in culture media produced using the residual components of the biomass extracts once the above-mentioned labeled biomolecules have been removed

Phase 3 Use of labeled products obtained from labeled algal biomass

Optimization of the production of labeled biomolecules expressed in E. coli in growth media obtained from algal biomass

Adaptation and optimization of the conditions for the expression of isotopic labeled proteins using mammalian cells (in particular, in human cells) via transient tranfection.

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MAPI-INT “Ricerca di marcatori precoci di ischemia intestinale. Studio prospettico osservazionale.”



Financed by the Tuscany Region

Primary Investigator: Dr. Tatiana Kozyreva

Researchers: Caterina Bernacchioni, Matteo Gentili, Martina Norcini, Jeffrey Tyler Rubino, and Panteleimon Takis

In emergency rooms, especially in the case of acute symptoms, the central dogma of patients’ treatment effectiveness consists of rapid disease diagnosis and subsequent targeted cure. Personalized medicine is progressively acquiring importance for both of these purposes and for drug development. In turn, a deeper knowledge of each individual’s metabolome is becoming important for defining individual phenotypes. In recent years, analysis of the human metabolome through the systematic study of bio-specimens (biofluids, tissues, etc.) has strongly developed.

Precision medicine may significantly contribute to rapid disease diagnosis and targeted therapy, but relies on the availability of detailed, subject specific, clinical information. Proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H–NMR) spectroscopy of body fluids can extract individual metabolic fingerprints.

In this project, we studied 64 patients admitted to the Florence main hospital emergency room with severe abdominal pain. A blood sample was drawn from each patient at admission, and the corresponding sera underwent 1H–NMR metabolomics fingerprinting. Unsupervised Principal Component Analysis (PCA) analysis showed a significant discrimination between a group of patients with symptoms of upper abdominal pain and a second group consisting of patients with diffuse abdominal/intestinal pain. Prompted by this observation, supervised statistical analysis (Orthogonal Partial Least Squares–Discriminant Analysis (OPLS-DA)) showed a very good discrimination (>90%) between the two groups of symptoms. This is a surprising finding, given that neither of the two symptoms points directly to a specific disease among those studied here. Actually herein, upper abdominal pain may result from either symptomatic gallstones, cholecystitis, or pancreatitis, while diffuse abdominal/intestinal pain may result from either intestinal ischemia, strangulated obstruction, or mechanical obstruction. Although limited by the small number of samples from each of these six conditions, discrimination of these diseases was attempted. In the first symptom group, >70% discrimination accuracy was obtained among symptomatic gallstones, pancreatitis, and cholecystitis, while for the second symptom group >85% classification accuracy was obtained for intestinal ischemia, strangulated obstruction, and mechanical obstruction. No single metabolite stands up as a possible biomarker for any of these diseases, while the contribution of the whole 1H–NMR serum fingerprint seems to be a promising candidate, to be confirmed on larger cohorts, as a first-line discriminator for these diseases.

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LUS BUBBLE “Light and ultrasound activated microbubbles for cancer treatment”


Primary Investigator: Dr. Tatiana Kozyreva

Researchers: Mercia De Sousa, Dr. Tommaso Martelli


The scope of this project is the demonstration of a platform to image and treat cancer by the use of microbubbles triggered by the combination of optical and acoustical excitation of plasmonic particles delivered to malignant cells.

The introduction of plasmonic particles for cancer imaging and treatment is becoming a clinical option (see Innovative gold nano-shells, cages and rods are being engineered to target and sensitize tumors to near infrared (NIR) light for photoacoustic imaging, which combines optical contrast and acoustical detection, and therapy by optical hyperthermia. The main drawback of optical hyperthermia is its invasive profile, which dissipates the potential of plasmonic particles to accumulate into cancer cells with high specificity. One alternative may be the use of short and intense light pulses to trigger bubbles and impart damage to individual subcellular targets. While this approach has been demonstrated with gold nano-spheres resonating at green frequencies of poor biomedical interest, the use of NIR resonant particles conflicts with their optical instability. We propose to develop multishell particles of high damage threshold and synchronize an optical and acoustical activation to mitigate the optical requirements to generate bubbles and enable their manipulation. Mini invasive and destructive bubbles for imaging and therapy will be investigated in phantoms and cellular cultures. This project fits in the expanding market for efficient, mini invasive and cost effective solutions for cancer imaging and treatment. Pioneering innovation at the crossroads of nanomedicine, biomedical optics and acoustics will be pursued by customized modification of plasmonic particles in ongoing clinical trials and the adaptation of laser and ultrasound devices in common clinical use. The endpoint of this project will be the proof of concept of a novel technology to detect and destroy malignant cells in benchtop tests with cellular cultures and the design of protocols for in vivo tests with rodents.

Closed project

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50019 Sesto Fiorentino (FI), Italy
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VAT number: IT06188160482

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