An interview with Giulia Russo

Our new guest on In Silico Talks today is Giulia Russo, Assistant Professor at the University of Catania, Italy, and Chief Research Officer of MIMESIS, an academic spin-off of the same University focused on computational biomedicine.

“By training I’m a pharmacist and I chose this field of study because I was pretty interested in medicine and healthcare. After the graduation I chose to focus on research and I get my PhD in Basic and Applied Biomedical Sciences, focusing on modeling and simulation techniques as support methodologies to optimize the research and development pipeline for medicinal products, especially vaccines”.

Giulia Russo is currently working on many projects. Among them, she is contributing to the further development and implementation of a specific in silico platform, named Universal Immune System Simulator (UISS), an immune system simulator for the prediction of several outcome disease and related treatment.

“I’m focusing basically on specific disease modules for infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, COVID-19, for tumor, such as mammary carcinoma, and autoimmune disease, such as multiple sclerosis. In particular, at the University of Catania our research group led by Prof. Francesco Pappalardo developed a specific computational model for multiple sclerosis using our UISS platform. Then, we implemented together with InSilicoTrials MS TreatSim that represents the commercial exploited version of our specific module for MS. This tool can assist MS specialists to identify the best treatment strategy for MS in a personalized fashion”.

It is always interesting to learn more about the first approach of a scientist to in silico medicine. “My interest in in silico medicine dates from 2014, at the end of my Master degree in Pharmacy, when I discovered the fascinating world of in silico medicine through the Computational Modeling in Systems Biomedicine Research Group at the University of Catania, supervised by Professor Francesco Pappalardo. I’m interested in in silico medicine because I’m pretty convinced that innovation technology in general can speed up and optimize the discovery pipeline for pharmaceutical products. Then, this extraordinary multidisciplinary context in which in silico medicine acts can make everything powerful and possible!”.

Many researchers today are convinced that modeling and simulation is the real game-changer for the healthcare industry. “That’s true! Modeling and simulation can accelerate the conventional pipeline for the development and regulatory assessment of medicines and medical devices, by lowering specific barriers related to their development, validation, accreditation, and optimization. This will reflect also in the reduction of time-to-market and costs involved for the development and certification of medicines and medical devices, which can be leveraged in the negotiation for lower selling prices”.

“Modeling and simulation can also help SMEs to access easier the market thanks to its great advantages. In addition, these technologies and methodologies can make ad personam therapies available for everyone, despite differences in income, social status, country of residence, race, and cultural origins”.

The healthcare industry is facing many challenges today. “One of the most preeminent is linked to the current sanitary emergency. The necessity to adopt these new technologies is increasing because they can really help in the fast identification of new interventional strategies to predict and treat new pandemics. Other challenges are related to the need to obtain a personalized and optimized therapy that could target and cure specific groups of individuals, considering personal characteristics such as age, gender or phenotype.

Animal experimentation and the related ethical implications represent another huge challenge that the healthcare industry needs to deal with”.

Check the full interview here:


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