The main aim of this three-year program is to provide a high-level scientific training for students with a background in life sciences, medicine, engineering, physics, chemistry, pharmacology interested in studying organism functions in health and disease with a multidisciplinary approach.

The program offers research and education opportunities for ambitious students who wish to work towards an interdisciplinary Ph.D. degree covering one or more of the following areas: chemistry, biochemistry, bioinformatics and computational biology, genetics, genomics, microbiology, immunology, and cellular, developmental, molecular, structural and systems biology.

A distinguishing feature of this program is the possibility of interacting and networking with fellow students with different background and expertise and of approaching the study of organism function in health and disease in a comprehensive fashion.

The practical work is complemented by lectures, seminars and courses involving all students and faculty members with the aim of developing broader knowledge based on a common language, essential in modern science.

Studied organisms include bacteria, yeast, plants, flies, nematodes, mouse and human systems, with possible clinical connections.

Three curricula are foreseen:
1) Biology and Genetics of Prokaryotes and Viruses; Host-pathogen interaction including immune responses.
This curriculum will focus on the molecular mechanisms underlying the fundamental processes of the biology of prokaryotic cells and viruses and their interactions with host.
Research areas of interest include:
• the interactions of pathogens with their host cell, for example the bacterial response to host-specific cues;
• the molecular basis of the strategies adopted to counteract host-imposed stress conditions, the interplay between global and stress-specific transcriptional regulators both at the genome and at the single-gene level;
• the study of the mechanisms of viral and bacteria infection/persistence in the host as well as to evade and to hijack the immune responses.
Ongoing projects include studies aimed at understanding:
• the mechanisms of cross-presentation of pathogen-associated antigens to CD8 T cells by dendritic cells;
• the mechanisms influencing the differentiation of memory or effector T cells during chronic viral infections;
• the immune responses following vaccination in healthy and immunodeficient patients or in individuals carrying immune disorders;
• the molecular events regulating innate lymphocyte-mediated stress surveillance response;
• the signalling components underlying immune receptor functions.
2) Bioinformatics and Omics, Structure and function of macromolecules, Drug Discovery.
This curriculum will focus on the properties of biological macromolecules. Different approaches will be exploited, which involve structural biology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, drug design and chemistry. The final goal is to provide the conceptual framework necessary to interpret biological complexity in relevant phenomena such as cell reprogramming, cancer, host-pathogen interaction.
Among the ongoing projects, there are:
• studies to unveil mechanisms of initial reaction leading to generation of genetic information;
• the determination of the structure of individual macromolecules to unravel the molecular mechanisms underlying protein stability and folding;
• studies to unveil the founding principles of molecular recognition between biomolecules, including proteomic studies;
• exploitation of structural information on putative targets to design, synthesize and validate antimicrobial and antiviral compounds as well as new or optimized anticancer drugs;
• structure-function characterization of antimicrobial peptides;
• structural bases of the metabolism in order to find new targets for effective anti-biofilm drugs;
• computational approaches to the interpretation of -omics data;
• development of methods for function and structure prediction of macromolecules.

3) Molecular and Cellular Biology and Genetics of Eukaryotic cells; Developmental Biology; Cellular physiology.
This curriculum will focus on the molecular mechanisms underlying the fundamental processes of the biology of Eukaryotic cells. In particular, present areas of interest include:
• the interactions of host cell with viral, prokaryotic and eukaryotic pathogens.
• the molecular mechanisms controlling eukaryotic cell biology during physiological and pathological processes.
Ongoing projects include studies aimed at understanding:
• signalling regulatory networks;
• cellular crosstalk and trafficking; physio-patological cell-to-cell communication;
• the importance of metabolism and metabolic reprogramming of physiological and pathological adaptation.
• expression and function of non protein coding genes: role of small and long non-coding RNAs in gene expression control;
• epigenetic phenomena: epigenetics in DNA replication, recombination and transcription; Poly-ADP ribosylation and DNA methylation in gene expression control;
• chromosome organization and genome stability; nucleosomal organization of telomeres;
• molecular mechanisms driving cellular differentiation: stem cell fate in response to microenviromental factors.


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