What a wonderful lady! Rita Levi-Montalcini, Nobel Laureate at the age of almost 102 years as recently created in Rome the European Brain Research Institute (EBRI) , where she is still involved in first line in the battle against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer, Parkinson and where she as recently launched the challenge to fight Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) a progressive and lethal neurodegenerative disease by evaluating the efficacy of the product she discovered, Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize. EBRI started its scientific activities in 2004 and it was created in response to the need in Italy for a Centre that would foster and promote neurobiological and neurophysiologic research with the aim of finding new therapies against Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
In addition, another objective of EBRI is to attract foreign scientists to Italy, as well as offering Italian neuroscientists working in prestigious foreign Institutes, a chance to return home.
From its start EBRI is located in a 10,000 sq meters building together with two other Neuroscience Institutes: the Institute of Neurobiology and Molecular Medicine of the National Research Council (CNR) Santa Lucia Foundation’s Neuroscience Laboratories.
EBRI scientific activity is, at the moment, organized with five main laboratories:
Neurotrophic Factor and Neurodegenerative Diseases (Group Head: A. Cattaneo); Cellular Physiology of Cortical Microcircuits (Group Head: A. Bacci); Molecular Mechanisms of Synaptic Plasticity (Group Head: H. Marie); Metabolism in Neurodegeneration (Group Head: M. Campanella); Molecular Mechanisms and therapeutics of Neurodegenerative Diseases (Group Head: P. Calissano).
Since January 2010, following the proposal of Rita Levi-Montalcini, the Rome Prefect Avv. Giuseppe Pecoraro has nominated professor Giuseppe Nisticò as Commissioner of the Institute in order to prelaunch its scientific activities, to accelerate the autocratic and sometimes endless procedures, to speed up the move to a new location and to ensure the application of the new Statute to avoid conflict of interests between the various organs. Prof. Nisticò is a well-known international neuroscientist with a long term experience in the management of scientific Institutes. He was one of the founders of the Faculty of Medicine and of the Faculty of Pharmacy in Calabria where he acted as Rector and Dean. In addition, he was Governor of Calabria Region and then Member of European Parliament, where he played an essential role in the approval of the European Health Program, in the VI FP of Research, the Pharmaceutical legislation as well as in the approval of the Traditional Herbal Medicines Directive. In Italy he was the Coordinator at the government Council Presidency of the network of excellence Centres for Biomedicine and Biotechnologies.
Many initiatives have been taken by prof. Nisticò to relaunch the Rita Levi-Montalcini Institute including the scientific collaboration with several prestigious Institutes in Europe such as the Wolfson Institute, University College of London directed by Sir Salvador Moncada, Bicocca University of Milan, University of Florence, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, etc.
In addition an Agreement for approx. two millions of euro has been signed with a Chinese Biotech Company (Xiamen Bioway Biotech Co.)
During the present year it is planned the start up of a new Laboratory, to enter in a new very important scientific field, the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), where there is an enormous medical and scientific need.
The new Laboratory rises from the collaboration with Pietro Mennea ALS Foundation. Mennea has been the 200 meters gold medal at the 1980 Olympic Games and he is he is now deeply involved with his Foundation to find funds to study the ASL Syndrome that affects many football players . Regione Lazio and the Health Ministry too, recognizing the high scientific level of EBRI and the social impact of the ALS Syndrome, will collaborate in funding the Laboratory start up.
At the moment EBRI employees about 40 researchers not only Italian and plans to overcome 50 units within this year. EBRI covers the necessary expenses thanks to financial supports deriving from specific research projects as from Italian Ministry of University and Research, Regione Lazio-FILAS, IIT (Italian Institute for Technology), Fondazione Roma and so on; collaborations with Industries as Xiamen Bioway Biotech and other potential partners, from Supporting Members payments, private citizens donations and Government funding.
Rita Levi-Montalcini, now almost 102 years old, is a wonderful lady still enthusiastic to guide young researchers. She says: “I do not sleep anymore during the night, but my imagination and creativity has increased enormously in the last years, thus I elaborate new ideas and discuss the next day with my young coworkers. Now I have a dream and I am engaged in starting up at the EBRI, with the help of Lazio Region and the Health Minister, a new Laboratory for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in which with a multidisciplinary approach we wish to contribute to the understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying such a terrible and so far lethal disease as well as to develop new therapeutic instruments”.