Dr. Simon Plyte, PhD
Scientific Program Director

Dr. Simon Plyte was awarded a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics from the University of Portsmouth in 1990. His postdoctoral research was carried out in the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, London, the Ontario Cancer Institute, Toronto and as an EMBO long term fellow at the University of Siena. He has over 10 years experience in the pharmaceutical industry: 7 years in "Big Pharma" at Pharmacia and Upjohn / Pharmacia / Nerviano Medical Sciences where he was Head of the Biotechnology Laboratory and Project Leader for a drug discovery project in oncology. In May 2006 he joined Genextra as Scientific Director of the Congenia drug discovery program.

Prof. Pier Giuseppe Pelicci
Founder, Advisor

Pier Giuseppe Pelicci is the Scientific co-Director of the European Institute of Oncology and the Chairman of the Department. of Experimental Oncology, European Institute of Oncology. He is also Full Professor of General Pathology at the University of Milan.

Prof. Pelicci's primary scientific interest is the investigation of molecular mechanisms responsible for ageing and cancerous cell transformation. In the past, Prof. Pelicci's research resulted in an innovative protocol for the treatment of Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia that still today remains the treatment of choice for patients affected by a disease which was, until then, essentially incurable.

Prof. Pelicci's research projects are currently focused on investigating of the role of the p66Shc protein, through which he has demonstrated that it is possible to genetically modify the life span of mammals. This study opens the way to the possibility of pharmacologically slowing down the human ageing process and identifies in p66Shc an important therapeutic target.

Prof. Saverio Minucci
Founder, Advisor

Prof. Minucci, Genextra's Chief Scientific Officer until July 2009, is Director of Unit at the Department of Experimental Oncology at the European Institute of Oncology, Milan, and Associate Professor of General Pathology at the University of Milan.

Prof. Minucci's research is focused on the molecular dissection of the mechanisms of neoplastic transformation. One of his most significant achievements is the discovery of a new mechanism through which certain cell proteins adopt oncogenic properties together with the demonstration that the inhibition of this mechanism can lead to the death of tumor cells.

Molecules that interfere with this mechanism (histone deacetylase inhibitors ( HDAC inhibitors ) are currently in clinical experimentation at DAC, one of Genextra's oncology-focused subsidiaries. One of the current interests of Prof. Minucci is the possibility that HDAC inhibitors could play a positive role in controlling the ageing process, given that the same mechanism involved in tumorigenesis is also altered in cell senescence.

Dr. Mario Varasi, PhD

Dr. Mario Varasi joined Genextra at the end of 2005 as Director of the Department of Chemistry where he remained until June 2009.

Dr. Varasi has more than 25 years experience in the pharmaceutical industry during which he worked in companies such as Zambeletti, Lepetit, Farmitalia, Pharmacia & Upjohn, Pharmacia, Pfizer, Nerviano Medical Sciences. Dr. Varasi is a specialist in drug discovery mainly focusing on diseases of the Central Nervous System and Oncology.

He is author of more than 60 peer reviewed publications and books, and inventor of over 60 patents in the area of Central Nervous System and Oncology.

Dr. Varasi completed his postdoctoral training (1977-1979) at the Institute of Organic Chemistry-Syntex Research, Palo Alto, California and obtained his Ph.D. in Medicinal Chemistry and Technology from the University of Rome in 1977.

Prof. Paolo Bernardi
Founder, Advisor

Prof. Paolo Bernardi is Professor of General Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, at the University of Padova, Italy.

Dr Bernardi's group studies the physiology and pathology of mitochondria (the cell's power source) with particular attention to their role in programmed cell death (apoptosis) and in accidental cell death (necrosis). By characterizing mitochondria, Dr. Bernardi studies the development of compounds active on these processes. His group is one of the major contributors in showing that mitochondria play a fundamental role in cell death.

These studies are also important as they show that mitochondria are a potential selective target for the development of active compounds against neoplastic and degenerative diseases.

Prof. Marco Giorgio
Founder, Advisor

Dr Marco Giorgio is Senior Researcher at the Department of Experimental at the European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy.

Dr Giorgio has worked on the creation and exposition of many transgenic models for the study of mammals' genes involved in the control of cell processes. In particular, his work has been crucial in generating the first transgenic model for mammals (p66Shc-/-) that features an extended life span and in the clarification of the mechanism of action of the p66Shc gene.