"Only through the enhancement of research in biomedical technologies can we aspire to a better future for the entire community". These are the words of Manuela Teresa Raimondi, professor of Bioengineering at the Politecnico di Milano currently at the Department of Bioengineering of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in the United States. “In the light of my professional experience and remembering the well-known motto of A. Einstein, I believe that in difficulties we can find an opportunity to react and make a constructive contribution. To tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, science plays a leading role". She adds in a videoour glance on the future" for 100Experts a project promoted byPavia Observatory the association Giulia., developper by Bracco Foundation and with the support of Representation of the European Commission in Italy. The project, started in 2016, brings together 100 names and CVs of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) experts. To find out more, we had the pleasure of interviewing her.
What is your experience in this period of global health emergency?
I'm trying to protect myself and respect the health rules. I wrote a scientific article that takes stock of the technological tools that can speed up the discovery and testing of new antiviral drugs and new vaccines. In the scientific community we are all confident that treatments and a vaccine can soon be made available to fight the coronavirus and allow the return to a normal and happy life. For 20 years with passion and dedication I have been carrying out my profession with the research group in Mechanobiology, which I founded at the Politecnico di Milano. I am confident that the pandemic will strengthen the role of research and new technologies in medicine and will allow us to overcome the crisis also by enriching us with new knowledge.
What is your research work in the biomedical field?
With my group we design and develop systems to make cultured stem cells proliferate outside the human body, so that they can be used for new therapies, for example for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkison and Alzheimer's, or spinal cord injuries, and many others not least post-Covid-19 pulmonary fibrosis.
What is your international experience?
Since two months I have moved to the Department of Bioengineering of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in the United States. I will be hosted for a gap year at the Gottardi's lab where I' m going to study molecular biology in order to strengthen my knowledge on the more biological aspects of my research in bioengineering.
Medicine and bioengineering: technology for the benefit of an increasingly innovative and sustainable medicine. How important is this union to face the challenges of the future?
In few years traditional pill drugs will largely be replaced by advanced drugs, also called "biopharmaceuticals", which use a biological component as an active ingredient. This component can be for example a piece of genetic code or an antibody, as the new drugs against the coronavirus. It can be a living cell taken from the patient himself and expanded in the laboratory, as in the new cell therapies with stem cells already used in patients with myocardial infarction. The biological component can be an entire living tissue made in the laboratory, as in skin regeneration therapies already used in severe burns. In the future, the biologic component could be a whole organ regenerated outside the human body with the patient's cells, and then transplanted; studies on these new treatments have already arrived on animals for vital organs such as the kidney and intestine.
Life Science Life Science are the founding elements for the development of a sustainable economy that looks to the future, creating new opportunities for society in the health, agri-food, chemical, pharmaceutical and environmental protection sectors. The integration of molecular biology, biotechnology and digital technology is at the center of a radical change that will profoundly change our society in the coming years. Italy is a pulsating hub of this revolution with a network of valid research structures, public and private, and innovative companies present throughout the national territory to which is added an ecosystem of Italian research, with the great post Expo project of Mind and the Human Technopole, legacy of Milan 2015 which will represent, also in view of Dubai 2020, an important opportunity for the entire life science and innovation system. One Year to go that took place last October 2, it emerged that Italy will bring and share, with the 190 participating countries, the collaborative model between science and health, health and environment, well-being and nutrition that took place during the pandemic,further strengthened and consolidated making our country an international best practice."Italy is well positioned in terms of international research in these sectors. Unfortunately, national funding is largely insufficient to support research and this creates a delay in our ability to achieve good competitiveness in order to obtain European funding ”, comments Professor Riamondi.”, Comments Professor Riamondi.
What do you expect for the time being?
May the research in biomedical technologies will be enhanced. We have all seen how important are respirators and ICU equipment, and molecular tests to detect Sars-CoV-2 virus infection and antigen tests to assess people's immunity to the disease and enable recovery. social security.
What is your message?
That science in general and biomedical engineering in particular must maintain a fundamental role in ensuring that new technologies are made available to the community.
Professor Maria Teresa Raimondi is also one of the protagonists of the photographic exhibition A scientist life, conceived and curated by the Bracco Foundation, which was exhibited from 29 September to 1 November 2020 at the Civic Aquarium of Milan, as part of the “Women's talents”. The exhibition presented the faces and skills of great Italian scientists,protagonists of the project "#100esperte - 100 women against stereotypes"created to enhancefemale expertise in sectors still perceived as male dominated.The path of portraits, created by the famous photographer Gerald Bruneau, intends to contribute to overcoming gender prejudices in scientific practice.Biologists, chemists, pharmacologists, engineers, astrophysicists, mathematicians, surgeons, paleontologists, computer scientists: these are just some of the professions, conducted at the highest levels, of the photographed scientists.
How important is it that gender biases are overcome in scientific practice?
The photographic exhibition was an encouraging gift for many scientists that the Bracco Foundation gave us in its style that is always elegant and sensitive to gender issues. To overcome gender bias it would be important to create funding for young researchers that allow the best to become scientifically independent as soon as possible, start their laboratory, grow their team and be competitive to obtain more important funding from the European Commission to finalize their research. I owe this first of all to the Politecnico di Milano, and also to the Cariplo Foundation, which has financed me three times in the past, and this has allowed me to become independent and achieve great results.