Luca Guidotti receives Career Award for his research on hepatitis B

HBV International Meeting, held in Kobe (Japan), awarded to Luca Guidotti, scientific vice-director at IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital and full professor of Pathology at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, the Career Award 2023 for his relevant research in the pathogenesis of hepatitis B infection and in the development of new anti-viral drugs for chronic hepatitis.

Inaugurated in 1985 by famous scientists Jesse Summers (member of the american National Academy of Science) and Harold Varmus (former director of the american National Institute of Health (NIH)), HBV International meeting (that involves Asia, America and Europe) brings together, every year, hundreds of international renowned scientists that study different aspects of HBV infection, from molecular virology to pathogenesis and immunology, up to the latest therapeutic advances.

A technical committee of 30 international scientists has been established for five years and votes on the Career Award, designating important researchers, authors of fundamental discoveries in their profession. This year, Professor Guidotti was unanimously voted for his commitment in the pathogenesis field and in the development of anti-viral drugs against HBV.

International renowned virologist and immunologist

p3lab_coverLuca Guidotti

Luca Guidotti

Professor Luca Guidotti, virologist and immunologist, has been working for more than 20 years at the Scripps Research Institute of La Jolla in California and currently he is full professor of Pathology at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, where is also group leader of Immunopathology Laboratory at the Immunology, transplant and Infective Diseases Division.

“My interest in Hepatitis B virus started in the nineties, together with Prof. Frank Chisari at Scripps Research Institute in California, even though little was known about this virus. In these years, a new genetically modified murine model (able to replicate the virus) paved the way  for new scientific discoveries.

This single discovery – explains professor Guidotti –permitted the comprehension of disease mechanisms at the basis of HBV infection and, especially strongly accelerated the development of some anti-viral (the so-called nucleotide analogue that inhibit the viral polymerase) which have saved and still today save the lives of millions of people.

Thanks to those years of scientific and cultural ferment, I decided to dedicate my career to the study of HBV whose chronic form still today causes at least 1 million deaths a year”.

Luca Guidotti published in the most prestigious international scientific journals such as Cell, Nature, Nature Medicine and Science and won important funding from the American National Institute of Health (NIH) and the European Research Council (ERC).

Hepatitis B: the contribution of Luca Guidotti

The numerous grants mentioned above underline how, throughout his entire career, Guidotti has been a relevant figure in HBV research, defining fundamental aspects of virology, pathogenesis and immunology of this virus, as well as contributing to the development of several drugs which are used today in the clinic.

“The absence of an effectivetherapy against HBV is a huge problem: there are still today more than 300 million people suffering from hepatitis B, an infection that is the first cause of liver tumor in the world. Vaccines in use today only prevent the infection, but they are not able to treat the chronic infection, for which there are few anti-viral medicines (as mentioned above, the nucleotide analogues).

As in the case of anti-HIV drugs, these anti-viral must be taken for life in order to avoid dangerous viral rebound and liver disease. This is why the development of new and more effective medicines against HBV is ad absolute health priority”, says Guidotti.

In the latest years, Guidotti and his team have identified a new class of anti-viral that might contribute to a definitive treatment against chronic hepatitis B: small molecules orally administrable that prevent the formation of viral capsid and, consequently, the virus replication. “The development of these medicines is still underway, in collaboration with an american biotech company – concludes Guidotti – and we expect human trials to begin in just over a year”.