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News & Events ■ News ■ 2014 News

News 2014

IIT in the task force to find the cure for cystic fibrosis

d3-core-300pxIstituto Italiano di Teconologia (IIT) was chosen , together with Istituto G. Gaslini in Genoa , by the non-profit organization Fondazione per la Ricerca sulla Fibrosi Cistica, to collaborate on the project "Task Force for Cystic Fibrosis" (TFCF).

The goal is ambitious: to identify the molecule able to correct the defect in the CFTR protein induced by mutation ΔF508 - the most frequent mutation in people suffering with cystic fibrosis, which affects more than 80% of patients in the world and 70% in Italy – in order to strike at the root of the disease and find a cure for most of the affected people globally. In Italy cystic fibrosis counts more than 2.5 million immune carriers, who are often unaware of it and who can transmit the disease to their children.

In pursuing this goal, the Fondazione per la Ricerca sulla Fibrosi Cistica ( FFC ) Onlus has chosen to invest in the excellence "Made in Italy" by involving as a protagonist of the task force the Department of Drug Discovery and Developement of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, a research institute at the forefront of the discovery of innovative medicines with Dr. Tiziano Bandiera and Prof. Daniele Piomelli. Other primary actor of the project is the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics of the Istituto G. Gaslini in Genoa, historically expert in CFTR pharmacology and high-throughput screening, with Dr. Luis Galietta and Dr. Nicoletta Pedemonte.

"We are very proud of this project and the fact that FFC Onlus has decided to support our efforts by promoting an initiative of strategic importance." - says Dr. Tiziano Bandiera, scientific project leader at Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia: "Within the TFCF project our Institute will provide the collection of chemical compounds necessary for the initial screening and will deal with the synthesis of new molecules able to improve the functionality of the defective CFTR protein. We are very enthusiastic. Achieving this goal would be an unprecedented turning point in the history of this serious disease. "

FFC Onlus, which has already contributed to a considerable extent in the field of treatments of the basic deficiency, as well as in the one of the treatments for the lungs infection and inflammation of cystic fibrosis, has committed to fund the first three stages of the study (2014-2017) with a total contribution equal to € 1,250,000 out of the overall cost of the project amounting to € 1,615,000.

The detailed steps of the project Task Force for Cystic Fibrosis follow:

2014 | Phase 1 ( 12 months)
  • Screening of a collection of more than 11,000 compounds and identification of active compounds ( hit identification)
  • Selection of the most active compounds on the mutant protein
  • Validation of the active compounds on bronchial cells from primary cultures (from the lungs of CF patients undergoing transplantation ) , biological conditions closer to the patient .

2015 | Phase 2 ( 12 months)
  • Screening of the most promising chemical compounds and their chemical modification in search of the most effective parent molecules ( hit to lead ) .

2016-2017 | Phase 3 ( 18 months)
  • Optimization of the parent molecules (lead optimization) and identification of a final compound
  • Studies of the pharmacokinetics and safety for the development of a potential drug for the treatment of cystic fibrosis to be subsequently tested in vivo.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 April 2014 10:28

Crossing a river using stepping stones and scrambling over rocky mountain paths: the future of HyQ revealed by new research results

New breakthroughs have been achieved by HyQ, the quadruped robot of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) that was designed to help people in dangerous situations. Researchers have taught it to walk on stepping stones, as if crossing a river, and on sloping walls similar to mountain paths. In addition, the robot is able to plan its own movements based on a three-dimensional map of the surrounding environment that it creates thanks to a vision system. These recent results are demonstrated in a video created by researchers from IIT’s Advanced Robotics department and available on YouTube:

The recent video shows important new features in HyQ: the capacity to create three-dimensional maps of the surrounding environment and consequently plan the type of movements needed; the ability to walk over a  series of stepping stones, as if it were crossing a river, and navigate along a corridor with sloping V-shaped walls (with a 50 degree gradient), similar to rock “chimneys” in mountain areas; and the ability to adapt its gait in dynamic environments such as the unexpected removal of a stepping stone.   

Another achievement is the robot’s ability to carry out a “flying trot”. This gait is characterized by short phases, in which the robot is suspended in the air. HyQ is one of the few robots able to perform a “flying trot” with no springs in its legs. Active control in the pistons and motors reproduces the behaviour of springs and shock absorbers. 

The achieved results show the continuing progress of research into bio-inspired robotics, the objective of which is to embed the versatility of animal behaviour in artificial systems. The HyQ robot brings together the study of movement in quadrupeds with engineering design; in particular, the control of the whole body dynamics and the optimization of the contact forces between the limbs and the surrounding environment. These problems are at the centre of international research into robots with arms and legs. With HyQ, the IIT researchers are offering innovative solutions in continuous development.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 March 2014 11:44

Giacomo Rizzolatti, coordinator of Parma-based IIT research center among the winners of prestigious "Brain Prize"

Rizzolatti-Giacomo-350pxGiacomo Rizzolatti, Professor of Human Physiology at the University of Parma and coordinator of the "Brain Center for Social and Motor Cognition" of Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), is one of the three winners of the prestigious “Brain Prize 2014”.  The award is granted by the Danish Grete Lundbeck Foundation to one or more scientists for their outstanding contribution to the development of neuroscience  in Europe Having reached its fourth year, the award will also be  given to Stanislas Dehaene, fromCollège de France - Paris, and Trevor Robbins, from Cambridge University. The ceremony  will take place on May 1st in Copenhagen.

Grete Lundbeck Foundation has chosen the three scientists for their “pioneering research on higher brain mechanisms underpinning complex human functions such as literacy, numeracy, motivated behaviour and social cognition and for their efforts to understand cognitive and behavioural disorders”.

A graduate in medicine, in the 90’s Giacomo Rizzolatti coordinated the research group that discovered “mirror neurons”, a starting point for the development of a new field in social neuroscience and the comprehension of behavioural disorders such as autism .

For more information on Brain Prize please visit

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 March 2014 18:07