Greetings from the IIT Scientific Director Giorgio Metta
2021 has been very whimsical, suspended in between life in presence and that on “video” as the pandemic unfortunately still lingers. Nevertheless, 2021 has certainly been yet another important stepping stone for the Institute.
Let’s think positive. Science has demonstrated to be the only right approach to take, with the development of vaccines in a record time. Completed in 2020, delivered in 2021, now we can see how well they work. Luckily for us, a couple of ERC winners have been studying mRNA therapies and nanoparticle-based drug delivery for the past 15 years or so. In a sense, the vaccines had already been there. Well done fellow scientists!
Speaking of science, also IIT is very much alive-and-kicking. We worked hard because it’s always exhilarating to witness, and participate, in scientific discoveries and inventions! You can see the passion of our people in all the incredible achievements.
Two examples out of the many you find in our labs: our researchers designed DNA aptamers (small pieces of DNA) that bind to the ACE2 channel to shut the door that allows the coronavirus the enter our cells. The aptamer “technology” bears the promise of a new way to design drugs for many different diseases. Also in 2021, we saw the launch of four new start-up companies. One of them is developing nanoparticles that make an “artificial liquid retina”, which will hopefully improve quality of life of patients who suffer from a variety of retinal degeneration problems. I don’t think anyone else in Italy can show such a track record. IIT is delivering in its mission to invent new solutions for the common good.
Organization-wise, we faced yet another set of challenges. It was not entirely easy. We have made it through very well, though. Despite the oscillating numbers of the pandemic, IIT’s numbers show that our protocols work very well. IIT is safe.
Rest assured that we keep monitoring the Covid situation, every single episode is checked, doctors consulted, specific measures activated. Maybe you don’t see it (it is often done outside working hours), but there’s sanitization happening for every single case that transits through IIT’s premises.
Under the hood, a lot more is being planned. We are looking at programs to improve energy efficiency of our buildings, we will start soon new specific actions related to gender equality and diversity, more for students, career development, psychological support against the stress of academic life (one of the hardest jobs, according to several studies).
As the year ends, let’s have a peaceful (and calm) season’s break, to get ready for a new year, new adventure, new discovery, because, in science we trust and prosper.
May the new year 2022 make all your dreams come true,
PS: Let me also spend a few words for Pedro Lagomarsino. I did not know him personally but the testimonies I’ve received from the colleagues and friends are extremely painful to listen to. I can only fathom how much his family and spouse suffered. He will certainly be missed.