Anna Scanu (rheumatology) and Jingjing Chen (dermatology) are the first in what hopefully over the years will become a long string of researchers winning the fellowships the IBSA Foundation for Scientific Research awards to support young investigators who work hard every day dividing their time between the lab and hospital wards. The entire IBSA Foundation chose to celebrate the winners at the award ceremony that was held at the Foundation’s HQ in Lugano, Switzerland. The opening address was delivered by Silvia Misiti, Director of the IBSA Foundation, who again stressed the Foundation’s goal of being a recognised leader in quality science and scientific education and that, to that end, the Foundation backs young investigators and their ideas so that they can fully contribute to scientific progress. The awards were delivered to the winners by the Foundation’s Chairman Arturo Licenziati, who in his address underlined how important it is to support scientific research with tangible help, now more than ever. The award ceremony was also attended by Flavio Cotti, past President of the Swiss Confederation, who congratulated the winners as well as the Ticino-based Foundation that with its work is taking the lead in scientific research and progress, winning international visibility and recognition.
Anna Scanu, post doc, Rheumatology unit, University of Padua (Italy), saluted and thanked Professor Leonardo Punzi with whom she works daily. Professor Punzi unfortunately could not attend the ceremony. Then, Ms Scanu presented the research project that landed her the fellowship award: an investigation into the role of the synovial fluid in crystal-induced arthritis, a joint inflammatory disease due to the deposition of minute crystalline material, which is also a cause of gout, the most common joint disease. The goal of the research project is to investigate the mechanisms involved in arthritis in order to develop more effective, personalised therapies to prevent and treat this type of diseases. With the IBSA Foundation’s fellowship award Anna Scanu will try to identify the molecules and mechanisms that are principally involved in triggering and amplifying the inflammatory response induced by micro-crystals. The findings of her research may lead to the identification of new potential drug targets for the prevention and treatment of arthritis induced by micro-crystals and the development of better treatments that can be personalised to each individual patient.
The winner of the dermatology fellowship award is Jingjing Chen, a post-doc Chinese national working at the Cancer Institute of Bellinzona (IOSI), Switzerland. He attended the ceremony together with Andrea Alimonti, M.D., famed oncologist and group leader at IOSI, with whom Jingjing Chen is developing a research project investigating cellular senescence in melanoma, a particularly aggressive skin cancer and the main cause of death in skin cancer patients. People with metastatic melanoma are usually refractory to standard therapy, and most of them relapse in few months from treatment. The goal of the research study is investigating the mechanisms that may stop proliferation of cancer cells and, instead of killing them as is the case with chemotherapy, promote healing by triggering the immune response of the patient to accelerate cell aging. With the IBSA Foundation’s fellowship award Jingjing Chen will be able to continue his work to identify new pro-senescent therapies for melanoma in order to increase response chances in patients with this terrible disease.
The award ceremony was also the occasion for announcing the launch of three new calls for projects under the Foundation’s fellowship program for 2014. The success attained in the first year and the numerous applications received from young investigators across Europe spurred the IBSA Foundation to confirm and step-up its commitment with 3 new fellowships – again, each worth €24,000 and for investigators under 40 years of age – for research projects in endocrinology, fertility and pain management.