I am rolling out my new webpage. This is a short preview.

Welcome. I am Alessandro, physicist trained in biophysics and biology. My research is quite eclectic as I have published theoretical work, technology, biotechnology and biology. I love to tinker with technology, develop new algorithms and software and I am best known for these aspects of my work. However, the topic of my research is always biology. I started working on neurosciences and moved to cancer biology passing through a project on malaria research. Cancer biology is now my passion and a field where I believe I can make an impact.

My work is still substantially focused on assay development because what I wish to implement is something that, accordingly to some referee, is impossible! I am developing tools for biochemical multiplexing in living cells and a novel perturbational analysis of biochemical networks. We like to call these developments “Systems Microscopy” because we are developing fluorescence microscopy tools to achieve a system level understanding of the cell. Impossible? Certainly challenging, but I was lucky to get the support of Prof. Ashok Venkitaraman, the Director of the MRC Cancer Unit. We pulled together resources and we made this possible. Soon, you will start to see the outcomes.

A more formal introduction to my work follows after this section. After years on the internet with a Wiki, I’ve changed my website completely. This will be rolled-out completely at the beginning of 2016. I will put back online all resources I have now cut, but feel free to contact me directly if you need software that once you could find on this space.

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Cancer Biology

Our long term goal is to understand how networks of biochemical reactions cooperate to the maintenance of cellular functional states and cellular homeostasis. More specifically, we are studying how biochemical networks encode for cellular decisions underlying cell and tissue homeostasis and how oncogenes contributed to early tumour initiation and promotion by reprogramming these processes.

We focus our studies on the characterization of checkpoint signalling and the DNA damage response (DDR) with particular interest on their heterogeneous response among clonal population of cells and how oncogenes alter their functioning. We have raised biochemical tools to monitor or alter K-RAS (and its mutants), p53, Caspases and DDR-related kinases.

Single cell biochemistry

However, we recognize that state of the art technologies do not permit to characterize a number of biochemical reactions in the living cells thereby limiting our capabilities to establish causal dependencies between the spatiotemporal dynamics of biochemical networks and cellular decisions. Therefore, we devoted significant efforts to develop novel fluorescence-based assays with the aim to enable complex biochemical measurements in single living cells.

Thanks to its low invasiveness, fluorescence microscopy enables the characterization of molecular interactions and other biochemical events (e.g., post-translational modifications) with high spatiotemporal resolution in the living cell. For instance, Foester Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) can unveil protein-protein interactions or conformational changes in fluorescently tagged proteins by encoding in the properties of fluorescence (lifetime, polarization, colour) biochemical signatures. Thus, we have developed a novel family of FRET pairs that can be used to monitor at least three biochemical reactions simultaneously.

Furthermore, we developed optically responsive protein domains that alter their conformation or elicit interactions upon absorption of light. These novel Optogenetics tools permit us to activate and de-activate with high spatiotemporal resolution the biochemical activity of a specific enzyme or oncogene.

Imaging technologies

All these innovative tools aimed to sense and perturb biochemistry in the cell required also the optimization of optical technologies available to date. Therefore, among other developments, we have founded a new type of microscopy (hyper-dimensional imaging microscope, or HDIM) that permits to characterize with high spatiotemporal and biochemical resolution complex biochemical signatures that we can encode in our suite of fluorophores. However, complex technologies rarely can benefit the broader community of scientists working in the life sciences and, therefore, we are committed to develop more cost-effective, user-friendly and fast biochemical imaging solutions.

Translational research

Last, but not less important, we recognize that imaging tools that maximize biochemical resolving power, can actually be exploited to enhance specificity and sensitivity of diagnostics tools based on fluorescence, either by imaging with improved resolution tissue autofluorescence or a number of diagnostic markers at a time.


In summary, we have established a number of technology platforms for sensing and perturbing biochemistry in the living cells. These technologies are now enabling us to characterize the heterogeneous response of checkpoint signalling and how oncogenes interfere with the maintenance of cellular homeostasis.