Milano, Italy
Milano, Italy

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Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: RIA | Phase: PHC-14-2015 | Award Amount: 6.00M | Year: 2016

The goal of BATCure is to advance the development of new therapeutic options for a group of rare lysosomal diseases - neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCL) or Batten disease. There are > thousand affected across Europe, with a combined incidence of c.1:100 000. The NCLs are devastating and debilitating genetic disorders that mainly affect children, who suffer progressive dementia and motor decline, visual failure and epilepsy, leading to a long period of complete dependence on others, and eventually a premature death. Existing palliative treatment can reduce, but does not eliminate, the burden of seizures and the progressively worsening effects on the whole body due to decreasing CNS influence and control. There are no curative treatments in the clinic for any type of NCL. We will follow a novel integrated strategy to identify specific gene and small molecule treatments for three genetic types of Batten disease that include the most prevalent world-wide, juvenile CLN3 disease, and in southern and mediterranean Europe, CLN6 and CLN7 diseases. To develop new therapies for these 3 types of Batten disease, BATCure will: 1. Create new models, tools and technologies for developing and testing therapies 2. Further delineate disease biology and gene function to identify new therapeutic target pathways utilising yeast and pluripotent stem cell models 3. Identify biochemical therapeutic target pathways, facilitate effective evaluation of preclinical therapies and improve diagnostics 4. Extend a comprehensive natural history beyond the brain to include cardiology, the spinal cord, PNS, psychiatric and metabolic changes 5. Identify new and repurpose existing small molecule therapy 6. Triage new compound treatments in zebrafish, a high-throughput small vertebrate model 7. Deliver and monitor new treatments using mouse models 8. Provide a novel mechanism to involve patients and their families to inform and fully contribute to therapy development and prepare for clinical trials


The main objective of this research proposal is to identify and elaborate those characteristics of ENM that determine their biological hazard potential. This potential includes the ability of ENM to induce damage at the cellular, tissue, or organism levels by interacting with cellular structures leading to impairment of key cellular functions. These adverse effects may be mediated by ENM-induced alterations in gene expression and translation, but may involve also epigenetic transformation of genetic functions. We believe that it will be possible to create a set of biomarkers of ENM toxicity that are relevant in assessing and predicting the safety and toxicity of ENM across species. The ENM-organism interaction is complex and depends, not simply on the composition of ENM core, but particularly on its physico-chemical properties. In fact, important physico-chemical properties are largely governed by their surface properties. All of these factors determine the binding of different biomolecules on the surface of the ENM, the formation of a corona around the ENM core. Thus, any positive or negative biological effect of ENM in organisms may be dynamically modulated by the bio-molecule corona associated with or substituted into the ENM surface rather than the ENM on its own. The bio-molecule corona of seemingly identical ENM cores may undergo dynamic changes during their passage through different biological compartments; in other words, their biological effects are governed by this complex surface chemistry. We propose that understanding the fundamental characteristics of ENM underpinning their biological effects will provide a sound foundation with which to classify ENM according to their safety. Therefore, the overarching objective of this research is to provide a means to develop a safety classification of ENM based on an understanding of their interactions with living organisms at the molecular, cellular, and organism levels based on their material characteristics.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: MSCA-RISE | Phase: MSCA-RISE-2016 | Award Amount: 1.16M | Year: 2017

LysoMod will innovate in the area of personalized medicine for disorders linked to lysosomal dysfunction. This will be achieved by implementing a collaborative staff-exchange program between highly complementary and multidisciplinary academic and non-academic partners with expertise in pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, cell biology, biochemistry, mouse and human genetics, transcriptomics, proteomics and lipidomics. Based on the critical role that lysosomes play in cells, a better understanding of lysosomal function will have a major impact on human health, fostering the development of new strategies to improve quality of life for people affected by a variety of diseases, ranging from lysosomal storage diseases (LSDs) to age-related neurodegenerative disorders. LysoMods specific objectives are: 1) to develop and further optimize existing therapies for LSDs; 2) to identify new targets for personalized therapies for LSDs; and 3) to investigate the cross-talk between lysosomal function, signalling pathways and gene expression regulation. The pioneer work of a participant in the consortium led to the development of a drug that is approved for clinical use. LysoMod will i) investigate the mechanisms of action of this and other drugs in lysosome-related disorder; ii) identify modifier genes involved in LSD pathology and test their potential as new targets for personalized therapeutic approaches; iii) identify candidate RNAs that can be targeted to enhance lysosomal function. The companies in the consortium will ensure a rapid transfer of new knowledge into applications for diagnostics and clinical trials. Prioritising lysosomal dysfunction as a highly relevant biomedical problem, the LysoMod consortium will implement a mentored staff-exchange program to provide young researchers with high-level training in innovative approaches for exploring biological systems, preparing the next generation of researchers for careers either in the private or public health sectors.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: ERC-ADG | Phase: ERC-ADG-2015 | Award Amount: 2.36M | Year: 2016

For a long time the lysosome has been viewed as a static organelle that performs routine work for the cell, mostly pertaining to degradation and recycling of cellular waste. My group has challenged this view and used a systems biology approach to discover that the lysosome is subject to a global transcriptional regulation, is able to adapt to environmental clues, and acts as a signalling hub to regulate cell homeostasis. Furthermore, an emerging role of the lysosome has been identified in many types of diseases, including the common neurodegenerative disorders Parkinsons and Alzheimers. These findings have opened entirely new fields of investigation on lysosomal biology, suggesting that there is a lot to be learned on the role of the lysosome in health and disease. The goal of LYSOSOMICS is to use omics approaches to study lysosomal function and its regulation in normal and pathological conditions. In this organellar systems biology project we plan to perform several types of genetic perturbations in three widely used cell lines and study their effects on lysosomal function using a set of newly developed cellular phenotypic assays. Moreover, we plan to identify lysosomal protein-protein interactions using a novel High Content FRET-based approach. Finally, we will use the CRISPR-Cas9 technology to generate a collection of cellular models for all lysosomal storage diseases, a group of severe inherited diseases often associated with early onset neurodegeneration. State-of-the-art computational approaches will be used to predict gene function and identify disease mechanisms potentially exploitable for therapeutic purposes. The physiological relevance of newly identified pathways will be validated by in vivo studies performed on selected genes by using medaka and mice as model systems. This study will allow us to gain a comprehensive understanding of lysosomal function and dysfunction and to use this knowledge to develop new therapeutic strategies.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: ERC-ADG | Phase: ERC-ADG-2015 | Award Amount: 2.50M | Year: 2017

Inherited retinal degenerations (IRDs) are a major cause of blindness worldwide. IRD patients witness inexorable progressive vision loss as no therapy is currently available. In the last decade my group has significantly contributed to a change of this scenario by developing efficient adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors for retinal gene therapy that are safe and effective in humans. The objective of EYEGET (EYE GEne Therapy) is to overcome some of the current major limitations in the field of retinal gene therapy to expand initial therapeutic successes to a larger number of IRDs. To achieve this, we propose to use four parallel, highly innovative and complementary approaches: i. expansion of the limited AAV cargo capacity by a novel methodology based on co-administration of multiple AAVs that reassemble in target retinal cells and reconstitute large genes; ii. targeting of frequent dominant gain-of-function mutations that cause RP using state-of-the-art AAV-mediated genome editing technologies; iii. induction of retinal cells clearance of toxic IRD products by AAV-mediated activation of autophagy and lysosomal function; iv. development of methodologies to directly convert fibroblasts to photoreceptors that can be transplanted in retinas from IRD patients with advanced PR loss and for whom in vivo gene therapy is no longer an option. We will use a combination of in vitro and in vivo state-of-the-art technologies including novel AAV vector design, high content screening of drugs that enhance AAV transduction, genome editing, and advanced in vivo retinal phenotyping to obtain proof-of-concept for each of these therapeutic strategies. The results from this study may impact the quality of life of millions of people worldwide by providing a cure based on gene and/or cell therapy for a large group of IRDs.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: ERC-ADG | Phase: ERC-ADG-2014 | Award Amount: 2.24M | Year: 2016

Membrane trafficking is fundamental for homeostasis of the internal membrane system and transport to and from the extracellular medium. Although we have gained detailed knowledge on the molecular organization of membrane trafficking machineries a global view of its function and regulation is lacking. To date membrane trafficking is often regarded as a constitutive process with a high degree of functional redundancy. However, the fact that mutations of single trafficking genes with ubiquitous expression give rise to tissue-specific human diseases and discrete sets of trafficking genes have differential effects on tissue development challenge this view. Here, using a combination of state-of the-art technologies, we will apply a systems biology approach in specialized cell types to establish a physiological and functional spatiotemporal map of membrane trafficking genes and proteins (membrane trafficking modules; MTMs). To this end we have curated a list of 1,187 genes representing ER, Golgi, Endosomes and Lysosomes (EGEL) around which we develop independent but interconnected approaches: (i) RNA-seq and antibody microarrays to identify co-regulated MTMs; (ii) high-content siRNA screening to define functional MTMs; (iii) epistatic functional analysis between EGEL genes and five membrane trafficking disease genes (TRAPPC2 in chondrocytes, Sec23A in osteoblasts, OCRL and CLCN5 in proximal tubular epithelial kidney cells, and VAPB in neuronal cells); and (iv) studies of protein-protein interactions to generate functional and physical networks centered on the disease genes. SYSMET will generate a unique resource by defining the impact and interplay of the different regulatory layers of the entire membrane trafficking system with important implications for human health.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: MSCA-IF-EF-ST | Phase: MSCA-IF-2014-EF | Award Amount: 180.28K | Year: 2016

Exosomes are small vesicles released to the extracellular environment by almost every cell type, with important functions in mediating intercellular communication in several physiological processes, including organism development, immune responses, neuronal communication and tissue repair. In addition, these vesicles have attracted much interest from the biomedical research community for their potential as biomarkers for diseases, therapeutic agents and vehicles for drug delivery. Despite this, little is known about the mechanism and molecular players involved in exosome biogenesis and secretion. The aim of this application is to expand our current knowledge on exosome biology and their therapeutic potential. Preliminary results suggest that Transcription Factor EB (TFEB), a master regulator of lysosomal biogenesis, lysosomal exocytosis and autophagy induction, also controls the expression of various exosome-associated genes. By using mouse and human cells upregulated or knocked-down for TFEB expression, the applicant will establish a role for TFEB in exosome biogenesis, cargo selectivity and secretion. Furthermore, the applicant will determine the role of other TFEB-related cellular pathways, including starvation and Ca2\-related pathways, in regulating exosome formation. Finally, the applicant will explore the therapeutic potential of exosomes in cellular and mouse models of lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs). Collectively, this application combines both basic research and translational approaches to expand our current understanding of exosome biology and to provide proof of principle for novel therapeutic approaches of rare diseases.


Grant
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: ERC-STG | Phase: ERC-2016-STG | Award Amount: 1.59M | Year: 2017

Autophagy is a fundamental cellular catabolic process deputed to the degradation and recycling of a variety of intracellular materials. Autophagy plays a significant role in multiple human physio-pathological processes and is now emerging as a critical regulator of skeletal development and homeostasis. We have discovered that during postnatal development in mice, the growth factor FGF18 induces autophagy in the chondrocyte cells of the growth plate to regulate the secretion of type II collagen, a major component of cartilaginous extracellular matrix. The FGF signaling pathways play crucial roles during skeletal development and maintenance and are deregulated in many skeletal disorders. Hence our findings may offer the unique opportunity to uncover new molecular mechanisms through which FGF pathways regulate skeletal development and maintenance and to identify new targets for the treatment of FGF-related skeletal disorders. In this grant application we propose to study the role played by the different FGF ligands and receptors on autophagy regulation and to investigate the physiological relevance of these findings in the context of skeletal growth, homeostasis and maintenance. We will also investigate the intracellular machinery that links FGF signalling pathways to the regulation of autophagy. In addition, we generated preliminary data showing an impairment of autophagy in chondrocyte models of Achondroplasia (ACH) and Thanathoporic dysplasia, two skeletal disorders caused by mutations in FGFR3. We propose to study the role of autophagy in the pathogenesis of FGFR3-related dwarfisms and explore the pharmacological modulation of autophagy as new therapeutic approach for achondroplasia. This application, which combines cell biology, mouse genetics and pharmacological approaches, has the potential to shed light on new mechanisms involved in organismal development and homeostasis, which could be targeted to treat bone and cartilage diseases.


Patent
Ospedale San Raffaele S.r.l. and Fondazione Telethon | Date: 2016-04-06

A gene vector comprising a miRNA sequence target.


Patent
Ospedale San Raffaele S.R.L. and Fondazione Telethon | Date: 2015-10-29

The present invention relates to a tolerogenic dendritic cell population (Tr-DC) capable of generating a population of T cells having regulatory activity, method of production and uses thereof. Furthermore, soluble HLA-G promotes the differentiation of a population of T cells with regulatory activity.

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