EMBL in Italy event held at GSK Vaccines in Siena
The GSK Vaccines site in Siena hosted the annual EMBL in Italy event on 26-27 May 2022. The hybrid meeting brought together industry leaders, representatives from biotech start-ups, data scientists, and researchers from academia.
Since 2016, EMBL has organised the annual EMBL in Italy event in collaboration with public and private research organisations. The aim is to share EMBL’s research and service vision with Italian scientists and the local alumni community, and to increase the network of life science collaborations across Italy – a founding country of EMBL and host to one of its six sites for more than 20 years.
Over 100 in-person and 150 remote participants enjoyed this year’s event hosted by the GSK Vaccines site in Siena, featuring speakers from EMBL, GSK and many Italian research Institutes.
The main theme of emerging approaches in human health and infectious diseases was unfolded through seminar sessions focusing on immunology, infection and structural biology and the potential of artificial intelligence in human health. The closing panel brought together data scientists, epidemiologists and experts in infection biology for a stimulating discussion on the lesson learnt from Covid-19 and the tools to cope with the next pandemic.
In the session dedicated to artificial intelligence, Sameer Velankar, Team Leader at EMBL-EBI, presented Alphafold, the algorithm that predicts protein structures from their sequence. The algorithm, developed by DeepMind and made available to the scientific community through a partnership with EMBL, was named as the 2021 “Breakthrough of the Year” by Science magazine. A year after its launch, more than one million protein structures have been predicted by Alphafold.
The programme also featured a keynote lecture by Sergio Abrignani, Scientific Director of the National Institute of Molecular Genetics (INGM), and former member of the Italian Scientific Technical Committee (CTS) coordinating activities to overcome the Covid-19 epidemiological emergency.
“EMBL in Italy events are an exciting way to meet leading scientists in the field and be exposed to the latest research,” said Cornelius Gross, interim head of EMBL’s Italian site in Monterotondo, near Rome. “We are thrilled that GSK has hosted the annual event this year, which is organised by EMBL and its alumni network for the benefit of the Italian life sciences community.”
There are many existing scientific connections between EMBL and GSK, resulting from the presence of a group of EMBL alumni within GSK who also promoted the EMBL in Italy event. They include Ennio De Gregorio, global head of Bacterial Vaccines Research at GSK Vaccines, who received his PhD at EMBL.
“It has been an honor to host EMBL’s annual event within the GSK Vaccines site in Siena for a high-level scientific discussion on the topic of infectious diseases and, more generally, human health,” said De Gregorio. “I am confident that this meeting can pave the way for new opportunities to collaborate, network, and share innovation in areas of common scientific and research interest, both with EMBL, Europe’s center of excellence for molecular biology, and through the EMBL alumni network that we had the pleasure of hosting.”
The event also aimed to promote valuable and constructive dialogue between public and private research institutions, highlighting mutual resources, collaboration, and careers opportunities offered by participating institutions.
“This was the sixth annual EMBL in Italy event and the second to be hosted at a company, thanks to the EMBL alumni network who facilitate these events,” said Mehrnoosh Rayner, head of the EMBL Alumni Relations team. “These meetings offer an excellent opportunity to foster exchange among researchers, network with key players and new talent in the life sciences arena, and be inspired by new research”.