HUMUNITY is a PhD school which shall train young scientists in novel approaches to the study of human mucosal immunity by the use of advanced engineered human cell culture models. The scientific goal is to develop integrated cell-biological models in which cultured human primary cells mimic the architecture and the interactions of the original tissue, by uniting powerful classical cell culture skills, innovative material science and advanced high-content detection systems. Specifically, students will study the innate inflammatory response to agents presented at mucosal surfaces of lung and gut, in both healthy and pathological conditions, by implementing novel in vitro systems that robustly reproduce the reactivity of human tissues in vivo. These models will also have multiple industrially-exploitable applications, from preclinical testing of candidate therapeutics in personalised medicine approaches to screening of drugs and biosafety assessment, thereby reducing significantly the need of animal experimentation.
Four trainees will experience an intersectoral training programme encompassing a 18-month internship in a UK SME expert in isolation and culture of human primary cells (AvantiCell Science), and 18 months in academic institutions (the Italian research organisation CNR, with secondments to the Universities of Pisa and Salzburg). Trainees enrolled in the PhD programme in Clinical Physiopathology and Pharmacology at the University of Pisa will engage in training-by-research, and will participate in a series of scientific and technical training courses provided by each institution, in addition to joint scientific meetings and transferable skills courses organised by the associated management partner ALTA. Eventually, fellows will gain experience in technology transfer when moving their prototypical systems to commercially exploitable assest relevant to different industry sectors, from pharmaceuticals through food and healthcare to environmental safety.
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