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A CALL TO ARMS TO SAVE RESEARCH - EGF'S FUTURE IS AT RISK

Bologna City | Medical Science | University Of Bologna

The first time I met Mario Capecchi was in 2006. I had, in one of my courses, an American student who followed lessons diligently as a "visiting student" and I asked her what her name was. She was Misha Capecchi and when I told her that she had the same surname as a famous geneticist she answered: "He is my daddy!".

Mario and his wife Laurie used to visit Misha quite often and the first time they came to Bologna we had our first meeting.

The next year Mario taught in one of the European Schools of Genetic Medicine (ESGM) courses that at the time were organized in Bertinoro and at the end of the course, on May 2007, the University of Bologna honored him and another American Geneticist, Victor McKusick co-founder of the ESGM 20 years before, with an honorary degree (see picture). In that occasion, Mario told me the dramatic story of his childhood in war-torn Italy.

He also participated at the presentation of the Music and Genetic Festival, an event of scientific dissemination in which many of us geneticists talked with the general public in Bologna's piazzas.

During that Festival, a three day workshop called genetics and Biology of Music was organized at Palazzo Re Enzo. More than a hundred international participants joined the discussion, which retraced the theme presented during the Festival Press Conference Races do not exist: we are all different, we are all related with a scientific approach.

Six months later Mario received the Nobel Prize in Stockholm and the next year Victor McKusick was awarded the Japan Prize by Emperor Akihito, the Japanese equivalent of the Nobel Prize. In Bologna we were all doubly happy, not only because two of ESGM's faculty members had received such prestigious awards, but also because our University anticipated the Nobel and Japan Prizes by several months. Unfortunately, in July 2008, Victor died in his house in Baltimore at the age of 86.

I would like to add that our group, which arrived in Bologna in 2002, has in the meantime performed a rigorous selection on the basis of merit of young researchers that today work on the projects independently inside the Sant'Orsola Hospital. One of these young researchers is now about to return to Italy after a long period of training (4 years) in Mario Capecchi's Laboratory.

Today after 5 years from the award from awarding the honorary degree to Mario and Victor. The University and the City of Bologna have accepted the European Genetics Foundation call to organize a scientific communication event to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the ESGM, one of our research projects financed by the EC and the twinning of Bologna with Portland, hometown of Mario Capecchi's maternal lineage.

This event coincides with a moment of devastating economic crisis in Italy and in Europe, when the ESGM is forced to leave its temporary base in Ronzano and both the ESGM and EGF risk failure.

I'd like to end by launching a call to all Bolognese citizens, aimed at preserving the research and educational heritage that the EGF and the ESGM have built up over the years.

Your answer to this call might consist in the donation of your "5 per mille" or in other liberal donations.

Your answers will be an important contribution to Bologna and to the challenge of globalization.

 

 

 

 

 

Article by Professor Giovanni Romeo

President of European Genetics Foundation

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