Uniting strengths to expand research

The European Molecular Biology Laboratory and the Italian Institute of Technology have signed an agreement to expand the scope of their collaboration

Artistic representation of brain and DNA
EMBL and IIT share a decade of collaboration in the field of systems neuroscience, genomics, and structural biology. Credit: Rayne Zaayman-Gallant

EMBL and the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology, IIT) have shared more than a decade of joint activities. Their collaborations in the fields of systems neuroscience, genomics, and structural biology have built on common research interests and complementary expertise. IIT’s stronger focus on applied research and on new technologies in neuroscience, robotics, and nanotechnologies integrates with EMBL’s missions of promoting fundamental research and supporting its applications in industry.

“Now more than ever, EMBL believes that it is essential to build bridges in order to ensure availability of scientific data, use of shared resources, and circulation of talent,” says EMBL Director General Edith Heard. “EMBL and IIT have been successfully collaborating for many years now, and this agreement will allow us to further expand and develop our ties in many areas of mutual research interest and across different EMBL sites.”

EMBL and IIT also share a strong commitment to training the next generation of scientists. For this reason, EMBL Rome, EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), and IIT launched the ETPOD postdoctoral programme in 2019. This programme leverages the complementary expertise of the three institutes in the fields of neuroscience, epigenetics, genomics, and nanotechnology.

“The collaboration with EMBL confirms the importance of research networks among excellent institutions, in order to contribute to the same quest for innovation and to share resources,” says Giorgio Metta, Scientific Director of IIT. “We recently further invested in state-of-the-art lab technologies for advanced genome sequencing and big data analysis, to respond to the present and future challenges for human health, such as neurodegenerative diseases, neurodevelopmental disorders, and cancer.”

IIT has recently launched the RNA initiative focusing on non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). The initiative takes an integrated approach that brings together basic research and its translation into pharmaceutically actionable technologies. The initiative involves a wide spectrum of expertise from ncRNA biology in health and disease, including neuroscience, oncology, computational biology, synthetic biology, imaging, and drug delivery.

RNA technologies have been at the basis for developing RNA vaccines for COVID-19 infections, demonstrating that RNAs are an important new class of therapeutics. The collaboration between IIT and EMBL will permit further explorations as part of this RNA revolution, including studies of fundamental molecular mechanisms that are currently not well understood.

Further strengthening the connection between the two institutes, IIT will host the next ‘EMBL in Italy‘ event – in a virtual format – from 20-21 May. With a focus on RNA technologies, the meeting will bring together EMBL staff, alumni, and other scientists from all over the world, and will feature presentations by Biotech companies working in the field of RNA technology.

By signing this agreement, EMBL and IIT confirm their interest in further uniting their complementary strengths and advancing their collaboration in areas of mutual interest, including structural, infection, and computational biology; neuroscience; and RNA biology.

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