Published on 04.03.2021
What is your role at Imagine?
I am part of the business development pole within the Institute's Innovation and Technology Transfer department. Our mission is to promote and set up experimental and clinical research partnerships. We support laboratories, reference centers for rare diseases and affiliated clinical services, as well as platforms, to enable them to valorize their discoveries, whether through technology transfer, partnership, or the creation of start-ups.
Concretely, in my fields of expertise, I search for potential industrial partners for the teams and I support them in the setting up of partnerships and the follow-up of the relationship with their partners.
Can you tell us about your background?
I am originally from Ragusa, Sicily. I lived there until I graduated from high school and then I went to study at La Sapienza University in Rome, which is very well known in genetics and molecular immunology. The projects I carried out allowed me to explore two passions: immunology and RNA. I worked on rare genetic mutations that predispose to certain autoimmune diseases in Sardinia and on the impact of the RNA editing process on the development of acute myeloid leukemia.
During my master's degree, I joined Institut Pasteur for an internship thanks to the Amgen Scholar program. Our team contributed in particular to defining the role of the ISG15 gene in interferon signaling and antiviral immunity, which is very different between humans and mice.
During my PhD at Institut Pasteur, I focused on non-coding RNA. My project focused on the identification of microRNAs and long noncoding RNAs involved in the regulation of the USP18 gene, a key player in interferon signaling. We found that the presence of certain microRNAs decreases the expression of USP18 in monocytes, blood cells in charge of the immune defenses. We have also identified a long non-coding RNA that can potentially contribute to the persistence of viruses in spermatocytes and susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections.
In parallel, I completed a university degree in biomedical engineering where I studied the steps that lead to the valorization of research. Then, I followed a career monitoring at Institut Pasteur to focus on business development. There, with 5 other doctoral students and under the aegis of Marc Chevalier, I created the Stapa Innovation group, which aims to raise awareness of technology transfer and entrepreneurship among new generations of doctoral and post-doctoral students.
Why did you move from the laboratory to the valorization of research?
I have always been particularly attracted to the creative side of research and its value.
My main interest is to show what the discoveries can bring to society and to see them realized for patients.
I like this role as an intermediary that allows teams to go further and see the applications of their research in the hospital as quickly as possible.
In January 2021, I joined a young and dynamic team at Imagine, in a dream job for me, which allows me to stay in the research environment, in areas that I am passionate about.