Università degli studi di Udine

Udine, Italy

The University of Udine (UNIUD) was founded in 1978 as part of the reconstruction plan of Friuli after the earthquake in 1976. Its aim was to provide the Friulian community with an independent centre for advanced training in cultural and scientific studies.
UNIUD occupies the 5th place among Italian middle sized universities (Censis survey 2017/2018).
UNIUD mission may be summarised in quattro short sentences:

  • higher education;
  • research and technology transfer;
  • connection with local communities;
  • internationalisation;

These are the main focus areas, all interconnected for a mutual exchange of knowledge, experiences and projects.

In the academic year 2016/2017, UNIUD has offered 36 Bachelor degree courses and 36 Master degree courses. In addition, UNIUD offers postgraduate teaching and research programs, with a broad range of training courses, grad schools (31), masters (15) and doctorate degrees (15). It has 15.385 students and 650 among professors and researchers. Scientific research is performed and coordinated by 8 Departments and 9 Research Centers and supported by a central administrative office.
Udine and its University are a point of reference in a region which is historically a meeting place and crossroads of different worlds and cultures. Geographically situated in the centre of the European Union, the UNIUD plays an active role in a close network of relations, committed to sharing its knowledge and ideas. Since its establishment, UNIUD has pursued the policy of internationalisation, aimed at preparing students and forging relations and partnerships with universities and institutions in Europe and the rest of the world.

To date, UNIUD has been involved as partner in many different EU research projects

  • HORIZON 2020: 19 projects funded,
  • FP7: 39 projects,
  • other international: 20 projects, 7 of whom coordinated,
  • territorial cooperation (Interreg): 47 projects funded, 5 of whom coordinated.

UNIUD collaborates not only with Europe but also across the globe and has long-standing connections with Africa, India and China.
UNIUD has a strong link of collaboration with University Medical Hospital of Udine.
UNIUD has competent personnel in administration, economic, legal and planning area. The technical and scientific activities are developed with the support of the research and technology transfer office. This office manages complex projects, protects intellectual property and transfers research results to the local area. The structure is supported by a team of 13 competent people, who have long-time experiences in coordination and planning leadership.

The main features of the technology transfer area are:

  • 57.357 publications,
  • 100 patents (46 marketed),
  • 8 spin off,
  • 23 start up.

Since May 2016 UNIUD officially obtained the HR Excellence in Research Award from the European Commission.

Group leader

Gianluca Tell

Gianluca Tell obtained his degree in Biology, 110/110 cum laude, from the University of Trieste, Italy. He joined the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Technologies at the University of Udine until 2001 and in the meantime, in 1996 he moved to the National Institutes of Health (USA) as visiting scientist at the Division of Basic Sciences.
He was assigned as assistant professor of Molecular Biology, first in 2000 at the Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Macromolecular Chemistry of the University of Trieste and then in 2004 at the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Technologies of the University of Udine, Italy.
In 2006 he moved to the University of Texas as visiting professor at the School of Medicine-Sealy Center for Molecular Science and Department of Human Biological Chemistry and Genetics. Holding the same position, in 2009 he taught in France at the CEA Institut de Radiobiologie Cellulaire et Moléculaire.
In 2011, acting as visiting research scholar, he went to the Department of Pharmacological Sciences at the Stony Brook University, USA.
In 2005 he was appointed as Associate Professor of Molecular Biology by the School of Medicine, University of Udine, Italy and in 2012 he was appointed as Head of the School of Biotechnology at the University of Udine.

The field of interest of Tell is the study of molecular mechanisms of gene expression, particularly in the field of chemical reactions known as redox signalling and cell oxidative stress. Now, he is focusing on some aspects linking the gene expression process by which genetic instructions are used to synthesize gene products and the repair of damages in the genome, which are relevant in molecular oncology and cancer.
Tell has contributed to the understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which the main mammalian Apurinic/Apyrimidinic Endonuclease APE1 coordinates cellular responses to oxidative stress in different cell models. He found a new role for this protein in gene expression and RNA metabolism.

Tell authored more than 150 publications in international peer reviewed journals and more than 70 international congress communications concerning control of gene expression during response to oxidative stress.

team member

Claudio Brancolini

Claudio Brancolini obtained his degree in Biology, 110/110 cum laude, from the University of Trieste, Italy. From 1986 to 1988 he has been undergraduate student at the Department of Biology (University of Trieste) and after the degree he joined the ICGEB International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Trieste, Italy.
From 1991 to 1994 he got a postdoctoral fellowships at the LNCIB, in Trieste.

The following year he was assigned as assistant professor at the University of Udine Medical School.

In 1999 he moved to New York, USA, as visiting scientist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

He also held the position of associate professor of Biology at the Department of Biomedical Science of the University of Udine, from 2001 to 2012.
Since 2010 he is coordinator of the PhD program in Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnology at the University of Udine.
Since 2013, he has been full professor of Biology at the Department of Biology and Medicine of the University of Udine.

The laboratory of Brancolini is dedicated to study epigenetics, the heritable changes in gene expression, in cancer and apoptosis, that is the process of programmed cell death, particularly with regard to the role of Class IIA HDAC and of MEF2 transcription factors. The main aim is to identify new mechanisms to kill cancer cells.

During his career, he has contributed in understanding the mechanisms controlling the cell death process, in particular in the field of cancer development and chemoresistance.
To date he has authored 73 scientific publications on peer-reviewed international journals and in 50 of them he is first or corresponding author.

He has served as reviewer for more than 40, scientific journals (Cell Death and Differentiation, Nature Cell Biology, Oncogene, and others).

team member

Roberta Benetti

Roberta Benetti holds a position as Assistant Professor of the Medical Area Department at the University of Udine, and she has been Principle Investigator of the Cancer and Epigenetic Group at LNCIB, in Trieste, since January 2008. She obtained her research training at LNCIB , at the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste and at the Spanish National Cancer Center (CNIO) in Madrid.

The research interest of Roberta Benetti is centered on understanding key processes that impact on the epigenetic regulation of gene expression in human cancer.
During her areer Roberta Benetti discovered a telomere repeat counting mechanism that controls telomere chromatin compaction and demonstrated the relevance of chromatin-structure of telomeres in cancer and aging (Benetti et al. Nature Genetics 2007; Benetti et al. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2008). Once opened her independent research group, she studied the regulation of the stemness factor Oct4 and its impact in ovarian cancer and embryonic stem cells (Scarola et al. Cancer Research 2010, 2013 and Comisso et al., Oncogene 2017). She established for the first time a direct link between identity of stem cells, proliferation and genome integrity, that has high relevance for human cancer (Schoeftner et al., Nat Comm. 2013, Commisso at al Oncogene 2017). Further, she discovered a novel mechanism involving a non-coding RNA derived from a non-functional Oct4 gene copy (pseudogene), that prevents the expression of the functional Oct4 gene in human cancer and mouse embryonic stem cells. Conservation of this mechanisms highlights the importance of pseudogene derived RNAs in the “modern” biology of cancer.

To date she has authored 20 peer-reviewed scientific publications, including research articles and reviews.

team member

Marta Codrich

Marta Codrich has a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology and a Master's degree in Medical Biotechnology. She obtained her PhD in Functional and Structural Genomics at the Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA) in Trieste (Italy) under the supervision of Professor Stefano Gustincich. She worked in the same lab also as a postdoc studying the role of hemoglobin in dopaminergic neurons. In 2017, she joined the lab of Professor Tell as a postdoc working on intestinal organoids.

Codrich’s research focuses on personalized precision medicine approaches for colorectal cancer.

The research experiences of Codrich has led to study and improve her knowledge on neurodegenerative diseases. For her Bachelor’s thesis, she was involved in a project aimed at characterizing a mouse model of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosos. For her Master’s thesis, she worked on the role of ubiquitin ligase TRAF6 in response to neurotoxicity induced by DJ-1/α-syn/htt (Zucchelli et al, HMG 2010; Zucchelli et al, JBC 2011; Vilotti et al, PloS One 2012). Finally, as a PhD student and postdoc, she was involved in a research project aimed at understanding the function of hemoglobin in dopaminergic neurons, evaluating its role in Parkinson Disease (Russo et al, BBA 2013; Codrich et al, CDDis 2017).

To date she has authored 5 peer-reviewed scientific publications.


team member

Carlo EM Pucillo

Carlo Pucillo is Professor of Immunology at the University of Udine, Italy. In his scientific career Prof. Pucillo has spent time at NIAMS (Bethesda, MD, USA) in the laboratory of Henry Metzger to investigate the signaling of high affinity receptor for IgE and from 1991 to 6-1994 has been Visiting Scientist at NCI (Bethesda, MD, USA) to investigate the role of co-stimulatory molecules and superantigens in T cell activation and polarization.

The research area of Pucillo is the molecular regulation mechanisms of the crosstalk between innate and adaptive immune cells. More specifically, his attention is on the role of mast cell as “biosensor of microenvironment”. In fact, sensing the microenvironment, reacting to specific and nonspecific stimuli with an incredible array of receptors, and secreting a broad spectrum of preformed and newly synthesized factors both pro- and anti-inflammatory, this cell is the most adaptable cell type that functions in orchestrating the first response to foreign antigens and in directing adaptive-immune responses.

Pucillo's major scientific accomplishments in oncology are:

  • Characterization of B7-2, costimulatory ligand for CTLA4, and contributing to demonstrate the potential complexity of costimulatory interactions and given the rationale for CTLA-4 blockade as cancer immunotherapy.
  • Identification the molecular basis of the reciprocal interplay between mast cells (MC)s and regulatory T cells (Treg) in physiological and inflammatory conditions. Characterization of MCs role in counteracts the Treg suppression through IL-6 and OX40/OX40L axis toward Th17-cell differentiation. This mechanism contributes to the development of cancer-associated pro-inflammatory microenvironment.
  • Identification of OX40L signal transduction pathway in MCs and development of sOX40. This molecule mimics Treg modulatory activity on MCs inflammatory functions and is under investigation to block the contribution of MCs to pro-tumor microenvironment.
  • Identification of MCs role in proliferation and development of B cells in physiological and pathological conditions. Characterization of CD40/CD40L-assisted cross-talk between mesenchymal stromal cells and MCs populating the lymphoma microenvironment, which contributes to the engendering of detrimental pro-inflammatory conditions that sustain lymphomas growth. Moreover, the CD40/CD40L was investigated in the interaction of MCs and MDSCs. It was found that MCs boost myeloid-derived suppressor cell activity and contribute to the development of tumor-favoring microenvironment in colon cancer.
  • Identification of prognostic markers in the B-CLL.

Pucillo has authored 87 publications in international peer reviewed journals.