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Meucci Lab and University of Bolognia Research Collaboration

Meucci and Brandimarti working on research

May 11, 2018

Olimpia Meucci, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology and of Microbiology and Immunology at Drexel University College of Medicine, and Renato Brandimarti, PhD, a visiting researcher from the University of Bologna, have been taking advantage of research synergies for more than a decade, collaborating since they first met each other by chance in Chicago.

Meucci and Brandimarti were on the same bus, and after each overheard the other speaking in their native language, Italian, the two decided to connect. Coincidentally, both had received the same fellowship from the Italian Ministry of Health and were conducting research at the University of Chicago, and both were interested in the topic of HIV.

In 2001, Meucci and Brandimarti reconnected, and Meucci, having received a new grant, invited Brandimarti to the states for the summer to help her with the research. Eventually, this became an ongoing collaboration that has benefited both researchers, their universities, other faculty members, and students. In the last few years, the pace of research has been steadily progressing and Brandimarti now spends half the year in Philadelphia and half in Bologna.

Together, the Meucci and Brandmarti work on research centered on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate neuronal survival and differentiation, as well as the events underlying HIV neuropathology, particularly in the context of drug abuse. They hope to better understand, and prevent, the neurological deterioration caused by the HIV virus. Now that HIV patients are living longer due to advancements in therapy, are seeing the long-term effects that the virus has on the brain. In recent times, the professors are trying to combine their mutual interests to create a new project that focuses on how the US9 protein is able to affect the processing of other proteins that are also affected by HIV.

In 2018, representatives from Drexel and the University of Bologna signed a Memorandum of Understanding stating that the two parties agree to pursue cooperation in areas of mutual interest, such as joint teaching and program development and academic exchange of faculty, staff, and students. Meucci and Brandimarti believe that formalizing their 15-year collaboration in this way will allow for more opportunities and international partnerships between the two institutions. It creates opportunities to apply for grants, as well as opportunities for students to travel between the United States and Italy.

In 2017, Meucci was awarded the ISA (Institute of Advanced Studies) Fellowship at the University of Bologna to present a seminar titled “Three Key Questions on NeuroHIV: What is it?  Why Should We Care?  Can We Do Something?”. While she was a representative at the university, she and Brandimarti took the opportunity to attempt to further deepen the research connections across colleges between the two universities and worked to connect specific faculty members at the two institutions