iRNA intro


The RNA initiative (iRNA@IIT) is a scientific action focused on non-coding RNA biology and its therapeutic applications at the Italian Institute of Technology. IIT is a network of research institutes founded in 2003 by the Italian government aimed at promoting Italy's technological development and higher education in science and technology.

iRNA Description


iRNA@IIT aims to generate ground-breaking interdisciplinary knowledge in RNA biology, leading discoveries at the level of basic mechanisms, technologies and ultimately, RNA-based therapeutics. iRNA@IIT integrates different complementary areas of expertise from the IIT laboratories and internal collaborators.

The Team

The iRNA@IIT involves 18 PIs, 2 Researchers, 1 Technologist and 1 External Collaborator, for a total of >100 Scientists. The initiative spans through three IIT’s Research Domains (Technologies for Life Sciences, Computational Sciences, Nanomaterials). It includes researchers with complementary expertise in: non-coding RNA biology in health and disease, neuroscience, oncology, synthetic biology, computational biology, bioimaging, biomaterials, drug discovery and drug delivery. Participants are located at different IIT centers located throughout Italy (Genoa, Milan, Rome, Naples): IIT Central Research Laboratories (CCT-Genoa); the Center for Human Technologies, (CHT-Genoa); the Center for Genomic Science (CGS-Milan); the Center for Life Nano Science (CLNS-Rome) and at the Center for Advanced Biomaterials for Healthcare (CABH-Naples). 

iRNA@IIT strongly benefits from a continuously developing clinical network, a precious hub for integration of RNA biology with biomedicine. This includes among others: a) IIT-Hospital Gaslini Genoa Joint Laboratory, with special emphasis on pediatric diseases; b) The “5000-genomes” Valle d’Aosta project which aims to integrate genomics in the diagnostic pipelines towards neurodevelopmental disorders, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer; c) the European Institute of Oncology (IEO-hospital, in Milano), one of the largest cancer hospital hosting one IIT research center (CGS).

Bandiera Tiziano (D3-PharmaChemistry, CCT-Genova; 4 Participants, including the PI) 
Barberis Andrea (Synaptic plasticity of inhibitory networks, CCT-Genoa; 3 Participants including the PI) 
Bianchini Paolo (CCT and CHT-Genoa; 3 Participants including the team leader)
Bozzoni Irene – WP1 Leader (Noncoding RNA in Physiology and Pathology, CLNS-Rome; 15 Participants including the PI)
Campaner Stefano (CGS-Milan, 5 Participants including the team leader)  
Cancedda Laura (Brain Development and Disease, CCT-Genoa; 3 Participants including the PI)
Cavalli Andrea – WP3 Leader (Computational and Chemical Biology, CCT and CHT-Genoa; 5 Participants including the PI)
De Pietri Tonelli Davide, PhD (Neurobiology of miRNA, CCT-Genoa, 10 Participants including the PI)
De Vivo Marco (Molecular Modeling and Drug Discovery, CCT and CHT-Genoa, 4 Participants including the PI)
Diaspro Alberto (Nanoscopy and Nikon Center, CCT and CHT-Genoa; 3 Participants including the PI)
Gustincich Stefano – WP7 Leader and Coordinator of the iRNA@iit initiative (Non-coding RNAs and RNA-based Therapeutics, CCT and CHT-Genoa, 4 Participants including the PI)
Leonardi Tommaso (CGS-Milan; 3 Participants including the team leader)
Nicassio Francesco – WP2 Leader (Genomic Science, CGS-Milan; 11 Participants including the PI)
Pandolfini Luca (CHT-Genoa; 3 Participants including the team leader)
Pelizzola Mattia (CGS-Milan 6 Participants including the team leader)  
Ruocco Giancarlo (Nanotechnologies for neurosciences, CLNS-Rome; 3 Participants including the PI)
Sanges Remo (CHT, Genoa; 3 Participants including the team leader)
Siciliano Velia (Synthetic and Systems Biology for Biomedicine, CABH-Naples, 4 Participants including the PI) h
Tartaglia Gian Gaetano – WP5 Leader (RNA systems biology, CHT-Genoa; 7 Participants including the PI)
Tirelli Nicola – WP6 Leader (Polymers and Biomaterials, CCT-Genoa; 5 Participants including the PI)
Tonini Raffaella (Neuromodulation of Cortical and Subcortical Circuits, CCT-Genoa; 2 Participants including the PI)
Vicidomini Giuseppe – WP4 Leader (Molecular Microscopy and Spectroscopy, CCT-Genoa; 4 Participants including the PI)


The iRNA@IIT is organized in 7 Work Packages (WPs) with specific objectives and deliverables.

  • WP1 (Leader: Irene Bozzoni) “non-coding RNA discovery: biological questions and new RNA therapeutics”, focusing on the discovery of new ncRNAs, unveiling their roles in answering precise biological questions of interest and identifying potential RNA drugs and drugs targets. The contexts are the development, physiology and disease of the central nervous system and cancer progression.
  • WP2 (Leader: Francesco Nicassio) “New technological platforms”, prioritizes the establishment and improvement of technological platforms to study RNAs at genomic and structural levels, with strong emphasis to ncRNAs.
  • WP3 (Leader: Andrea Cavalli) “Towards RNA medicine: computational approaches”, centered on developing and applying computational methods to predict and describe RNA secondary structures and their protein interaction networks.
  • WP4 (Leader: Giuseppe Vicidomini) “Towards RNA medicine: imaging”, aims to develop technologies for RNA imaging (structural and functional) by leveraging super- resolution microscopy, label-free microscopy, and time-resolved spectroscopy.
  • WP5 (Leader: Gian Gaetano Tartaglia) “Towards RNA medicine: post-transcriptional modifications and chemical synthesis”, focuses on the identification and study of RNA post-transcriptional modifications.
  • WP6 (Leader: Nicola Tirelli) “Towards RNA medicine: from delivery to manufacturing”, has as main goal to streamline the development of RNA drugs.
  • WP7 (Leader: Stefano Gustincich) “Management, implementation, technological transfer and dissemination”, aimed at managing and disseminating The RNA Initiative.