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Institute for Research in Biomedicine
Istituto di Ricerca in Biomedicina

Via Vincenzo Vela 6 - CH-6500 Bellinzona
Tel. +41 91 820 0300 - Fax +41 91 820 0302 - info [at] irb [dot] usi [dot] ch

Structural Biology

Luca Varani, Group Leader

Marco Bardelli, Robyn Holden, Mattia Pedotti, Luca Simonelli

Our group uses computational, biochemical and biophysical tools to determine the three-dimensional atomic structure of proteins and characterize their interactions with other molecules, with particular attention to antibody-antigen interactions in infectious diseases.

The final goal is to understand the molecular properties that make a given antibody effective against a pathogen, and eventually to exploit this knowledge to design new drugs against diseases such as Dengue and Zika, Prion or some rare form of Leukemia. Dengue and Zika are tropical viruses in rapid expansion whereas Prion, famous in the 90s due to the Mad Cow scare, causes a neurodegenerative disease with no cure and still largely unknown. Understanding which part of the pathogen is recognized by the most efficient antibodies allows discovering and blocking of the key parts of the pathogen itself.

Our group has a highly multidisciplinary approach that merges biochemical data, experimental structural information and computational simulations. Computational Structural Biology, in particular, is a rapidly developing and increasingly important field. At this time, however, computational predictions are not always accurate; it is therefore crucial to guide and validate them with experimental data. The synergy between computational simulations and classic biophysics, molecular and cellular biology combines the best of both approaches: the low cost and high speed of computers with the rigorous and reliable experimental validation. It is common opinion among scientists that future biomedical sciences will require a combination of computational and experimental techniques.