According to the project, the Human Technopole campus will host seven research centres and four scientific facilities, that will provide services and technologies to support the research centres. Each centre will include its own laboratories and will collaborate with universities, research centres and hospitals.
Human Technopole, will be a large-scale national research infrastructure. Over 35.000sqm will be dedicated to interdisciplinary laboratories starting from genomics, computational biology, neuro-genomics, structural biology and data science.
The first areas of research currently being developed are:
The Centre for Genomics will pursue research aimed at uncovering the complex mechanisms governing gene expression and how heritable genetic information translates into phenotypic traits. Applied to humans, and in the context of so-called ‘precision medicine’ this type of research can be instrumental in identifying molecular targets and markers for disease prevention, early detection and personalised treatments. In addition to carrying out genetic and genomic studies with a focus on (but not limited to) disease-associated mechanisms, the HT Centre for Genomics will promote and help implement nationwide genomic screening programmes for patient stratification. It is also envisioned, in the longer term, for Human Technopole to become a national reference centre for medical genomics, that is to have a coordinating role in linking openly available human biomolecular data resources with clinical ‘omics’ data from patients to help translate molecular information into clinical practice.
The work of the Centre for Computational Biology will partly support and integrate with research pursued by the Centre for Genomics. It will take computational and bioinformatics approaches to study disease-associated biological processes, mainly by developing advanced technologies, novel algorithms and software for computational simulations and big data analysis. The development of computational tools for drug discovery and re-purposing is just one example of a research line likely to be pursued within the Centre. Taken together, the work of the Centres for Genomics and for Computational Biology will result in the development and dissemination of new workflows that will help disease risk prediction, early detection, treatment selection, and treatment outcome monitoring. Activities of the two Centres will be highly interconnected and will be backed by fundamental ‘wet lab’ research to validate models and to reveal the molecular components, mechanisms and processes involved in physiology and disease. Computational drug discovery will likely be integrated with experimental drug discovery, chemical biology, and target identification and validation activities; digital image analysis and processing is also likely to be pursued. In most of these areas the volume of data to be handled and analysed is very large, leading to a need for research on machine learning or artificial intelligence.
The Centre for Neuro-genomics will combine basic and translational research using different systems (from animal models over stem-cell derived neuron cultures to organoids) investigating nervous system structure-function and neuronal development, with particular attention to molecular mechanisms underlying neural disorders including neuro-degenerative diseases.
Research pursued by the Centre for Structural Biology will aim at gaining precise knowledge of the structure of macromolecules, which is essential to understand how they function. Experimental genomics and neurogenomics activities will generate a plethora of new proteins and putative targets for treating diseases. In this context, structural biologists at the Human Technopole will seek to characterize the 3D structures of these targets to elucidate their functions and mode of action, as well as for drug discovery endeavours.
The Centre for Analysis, Decisions and Society is a joint project with the Politecnico di Milano. It is envisioned to develop original research at the intersection of computer science, mathematics, statistics, artificial intelligence, and socioeconomic sciences to analyse in an integrated fashion large-scale genomics data, personalised medicine and lifestyle data, and information generated by the healthcare system on treatment effectiveness and ultimately economics, with the aim to transfer knowledge both within the Human Technopole and externally to policy makers, healthcare providers and other stakeholders.