University of Torino

The University of Torino (UNITO), established since 1404, is one of the most ancient and prestigious Italian Universities. It has about 70.000 students, 4.000 academic, administrative and technical staff, 1800 post-graduate and post-doctoral students and 120 buildings in different areas in Turin and in key places in Piedmont. UNITO virtually covers every field of knowledge, has a remarkable research tradition in traditional subjects such as history, philosophy, law, economics and medicine and it is currently branching out into important modern sectors, such as biotechnology, food science, social politics, IT, performing arts and communication sciences. It is involved in different initiatives focused on the exploitation results, is shareholder of the University Incubator and is part of different innovation cluster initiatives based on strong relations with industries. Within UNITO, the Department of Molecular Biotechnologies and Health Sciences is devoted to education in biotechnology up to the highest academic levels and to the operation and management of cutting-edge research facilities in this scientific field, with emphasis on biomedicine and molecular imaging. It hosts about 80 researchers/technicians with expertise in different fields ranging from biology to medicine to chemistry. The main field of expertise of the group headed by Prof. Aime is the development of molecular imaging probes, among which MRI probes play a central role. Innovative MRI CAs are synthesised and tested in vivo at the CIM’s laboratories. The group has also a well-established expertise in the field parahydrogen hyperpolarisation aimed to in-vivo diagnostic applications.

Role in project

The UNITO group led by Prof. Aime will be involved in the development of non-d-DNP hyperpolarised probes and, in particular, of parahydrogen hyperpolarised substrates. The hyperpolarisation group, situated at the Dept. of Molecular Biotechnology and health Sciences, in the Centre for Molecular Imaging (CIM), developed, since more than ten years, a well-established expertise in parahydrogen hyperpolarisation focused to diagnostic and bio-medical applications, from both experimental and theoretical point of view. A procedure called PHIP-SAH (PHIP-Side Arm hydrogenation) has been recently developed, that allows to considerably extend the applicability of PHIP-based hyperpolarisation to biologically relevant substrates such as acetate and pyruvate. The UNITO group will develop parahydrogen hyperpolarised probes, with particular attention to those that can be used as an alternative to GBCAs, and will test them in vivo, in MRI experiments on mice models of tumours.

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia

Fondazione Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) is a scientific research centre established by Italian law in 2003 in order to promote excellence in both basic and applied research and to facilitate national economic development. IIT scientific activities started in 2006 with a very strong approach to technology transfer. IIT staff is of more than 1500 people: about 85% is dedicated to research, 41% are women and 59% men, and the average age is of 35 years. About half of the researchers (44%) come from abroad: 29% are scientists from more than 50 foreign countries and 15% are Italian researchers who have come back to Italy after a professional experience abroad. IIT has a vast experience in managing and supervising research projects: its portfolio is more than 340 external funded research projects, 157 of which financed by EU funding programs (FP7 and H2020) – 18 are funded by European Research Council (ERC). IIT has produced more than 8500 publications and 211 inventions resulting in more than 500 patent applications. Its research activity led to the creation of 17 spin-offs, with additional 26 under due diligence. Research is carried out in the Central Research laboratory in Genoa (IIT headquarters), in 11 satellite centres across Italy and in 2 outstations in US. IIT scientific vision is interdisciplinary, based on the concept of “translating evolution into technology”, that is mimicking natural solutions to develop new technologies. Currently IIT is conducting its new scientific plan (2018-2023) developing 4 strategic research domains: Robotics, Nanomaterials, Technologies for Life Science, and Computational Sciences. The main goal is to produce technologies that will have a positive impact on some important societal challenges, such as sustainability and the environment, healthcare and aging society, also reflecting EU priorities. This approach promotes the creation of joint-labs and research agreements with industrial partners, universities, and international research centres. IIT has a strong focus on precision medicine, and on the translation of nanomaterials into biomedical applications.

Role in project

IIT will contribute to the development of nanodiamond-based hyperpolarisation methods. Specifically, IIT will explore and optimise optical methods to polarise defects in nanostructured diamond, and to transfer polarisation to nuclei in the diamond lattice and at the surface of nanodiamonds.