Ph.D. in Life and Health Sciences University of Camerino the international School of Advanced Studies
Area: Life and Health Sciences
- Molecular Biology and Cellular Biotechnology
- One health (integrated approach to health focused on interactions between animals, humans and the environment)
- Nutrition, Food, and Health
Molecular Biology and Cellular Biotechnology
This curriculum focuses on the education of young researchers on the principles of modern biology including Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, and Biotechnology, in order to form a researcher suitable to be placed in public (academic and non-academic) and private strategic research sectors.
Interdisciplinarity is the main commitment of this curriculum that comprises different research areas with the aim to integrate basic biological research with biotechnological applications. Research projects are organized following a problem-oriented approach, that is to meet societal challenges in life and health sciences trying to give answers to them, as required by Horizon 2020. Those challenges can be identified in:
- development of the bio-based economy, including characterization of new antibiotics and new enzymes and other molecules for industrial applications, from prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms, using also genomics and bioinformatics;
- study of the effect of climate changes on organisms;
- application of emerging biotechnologies for environmental biomonitoring (development of bioindicators for water quality) and for animal health, including men health (role of proteasomes in diseases, DNA vaccination in breast cancer);
- nutrition and food research (selection of probiotics and active polyphenols).
Intersectoral mobility is encouraged, facilitated by the collaboration with the national innovative startups, such as Synbiotech and Biolab. Furthermore, this curriculum includes also an international academia-biotech partnership with CureLab Oncology (USA) as an example of a successful application of basic research approach into a rational product development. That combination makes this collaboration a potential productive venue for successful drug and vaccine development.
All doctoral candidates are strongly encouraged to perform European and international mobility with the many institutions in collaboration with UNICAM such as the Imperial College of London, the Universite’ de Strasbourg, Institute de Biologie Moleculaire et Cellulaire (IBMC), Northeastern University of Boston, Department of Biology, Harvard Medical School, Division of Genetics, Institut de Biologie de l’Ecole Normale Superieure.
In particular cases, a specific agreement regulates a co-tutelle relationship between UNICAM and a partner institution outside of Italy. This allows doctoral candidates to be co-supervised by professors of the two institutions and to perform long stages in the partner institution. New co-tutelle relationships are established every year. At present they are with the University of Pennsylvania (USA) and University of Toulouse III (France).
The One Health concept recognizes that human health, animal health, and ecosystem health are inextricably linked. Although awareness of the importance of this concept is increasing, the promotion of One Health research and implementation of the concept in national health services are lacking behind.
One Health research calls for close collaboration of physicians, veterinarians, biologists, and environmental sciences professionals. When properly implemented it will allow to accelerate biomedical research discoveries, enhance public health efficacy, expeditiously expand the scientific knowledge base and improve medical education and clinical care.
This doctoral curriculum offers thesis research training on various human and animal health topics from a One Health perspective. Research on infectious and parasitic diseases, diagnostics and clinical issues, nutrition and food safety and public health and health delivery systems, is addressed by a multi-disciplinary faculty of biologists, physicians, and veterinarians specialized in various fields.
Malaria researchers explore novel tools that can interfere with the transmission of the parasite from the human host to the mosquito vector. Currently, studies are conducted on bacterial and yeast symbionts of mosquitoes with the aim of genetically modify microbial strains to express anti-malarial compounds targeted to the parasite stages developing in the vector. Several compounds produced by selected symbionts have revealed anti-plasmodial activity in laboratory tests. Semi-field studies, in progress in Burkina Faso, will allow assessing the feasibility of this approach as a novel malaria vector control tool.
Chemical analysis and biological characterization of anti-malarial plant extracts have revealed several molecules with transmission-blocking effects acting on various parasite stages and the vector itself. In particular, the medicinal plant Azadirachta indica was found to contain various bioactive limonoids which inhibit the early sporogonic development of the parasite in the mosquito.
The One Health veterinary oriented program emphasizes working across public health and veterinary disciplines, in order to tackle emerging and “old” health problems more effectively applying an innovative, integrated approach.
The program aims to fill the gap between various areas of animal and human health (e.g. clinical issue, infectious disease, diagnostic, pathology, food inspection, hygiene, animal breeding) by promoting multidisciplinary research to improve the health and the well being of all species.
Doctoral candidates will be guided to work on the basis of the One Health concept and to expand interdisciplinary collaborations in all aspects of healthcare regarding humans, animals and the environment. Raising awareness on the importance of the One Health concept is a key objective of the doctoral training and professional career development of the young veterinarians.
Over the last decade, a relevant increase in the use of information and communication technology (ICT) applications in healthcare, known as e-health has been observed. e-Health is the use, in the health sector, of digital data in support of health care, both at the local site and at a distance.
Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication technologies to provide healthcare services – both for human and animal health - across geographic, temporal, social, and cultural barriers. The Centre of Telemedicine and Telepharmacy of Camerino University (UNICAM) has developed since 2010 a Ph.D. program in e-Health and Telemedicine which offers to doctoral candidates research training aimed to:
- develop and perform an original research project centered on e-health or telemedicine, depending on the skills and professional ambitions of the candidate; acquire knowledge in ethics, legal, economics and business areas relevant to e-health and/or telemedicine delivery;
- acquire organizational capabilities for managing e-health/telemedicine projects and to interface with decision makers both at local, national or international levels.
Nutrition, Food, and Health
- Nutrigenomics and Nutriepigenomics: Gene expression and epigenetic modulation analyses to identify how bioactive food components and food contaminants can modulate inflammatory responses and pathways involved in neurodegeneration in human cell lines and/or animal models.
- Optimizing food processing for innovative applications (i.e. legumes, wheat, coffee, etc.) and impact on nutritional value and health status.
- Composition of microbiota and modulation by exogenous compounds (for example prebiotics/probiotics) able to affect gut-brain axis and the inflammatory pathway in the prevention and progression of diseases.