Career award to Luca Guidotti for his research in the field of hepatitis B

Career award to Luca Guidotti for his research in the field of hepatitis B

Publication date: 27-11-2023

Updated on: 11-12-2023

Topic: Awards

Estimated reading time: 1 min

The HBV International meeting in Kobe, Japan, awarded Luca Guidotti, deputy scientific director of Ospedale San Raffaele and full professor of Pathology at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award for his pioneering research activity, which has led to fundamental discoveries in the field of the pathogenesis of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and the development of antivirals for the treatment of chronic hepatitis.

Inaugurated in 1985 by 2 renowned scientists Jesse Summers (a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences) and Harold Varmus (former director of the National Institute of Health (NIH), also in the United States), the HBV International meeting (which revolves around Asia, America, and Europe) brings together hundreds of internationally renowned scientists each year who study various aspects of HBV infection, from molecular virology to pathogenesis and immunology to the latest therapeutic advances.

For the past 5 years, a technical committee of 30 international scientists has been established to vote on the lifetime achievement award, nominating researchers who have advanced fundamental discoveries in their profession. Professor Guidotti was unanimously voted this year for his efforts in the field of pathogenesis and development of antivirals against HBV.

Internationally renowned virologist and immunologist

Professor Luca Guidotti, a virologist and immunologist, has worked more than 20 years at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and is currently full professor of Pathology at the University Vita-Salute San Raffaele and deputy scientific director of the Ospedale San Raffaele, where he also serves as head of the Immunopathology Laboratory in the Division of Immunology, Transplantation and Infectious Diseases.

"My interest in the hepatitis B virus began in the early 1990s, together with Prof. Frank Chisari at the Scripps Research Institute in California. Little was known about this virus at the time, but new research horizons were opened by the creation of a genetically modified mouse model that could replicate the virus. This single discovery has enabled the understanding of the disease mechanisms underlying HBV infection, and most importantly greatly accelerated the development of certain antivirals (so-called nucleotide analogs that inhibit viral polymerase) that have saved and still save the lives of millions of people. 

It was from those years of scientific and cultural ferment that I decided to devote my career to the study of HBV, which, let us remember, in its chronic form still causes at least 1 million deaths a year," Professor Guidotti tells us.

Luca Guidotti’s materials are published in the most prestigious international scientific journals such as Cell, Nature, Nature Medicine and Science. He is also a recipient of major funding from the US National Institute of Health (NIH) and the European Research Council (ERC).

Hepatitis B: Luca Guidotti's contribution

The numerous grants mentioned above underscore how, throughout his career, Guidotti has been a pivotal figure in HBV research, defining important aspects of the virology, pathogenesis and immunology of this virus, as well as contributing to the development of several drugs in the clinic today.

"The absence of a curative therapy against HBV is a huge problem: there are still more than 300 million carriers of chronic hepatitis B worldwide, an infection that is the world's leading cause of liver cancer. The vaccines in use are able to prevent the infection, but not to cure the chronic infection, for which there are few antiviral drugs (as mentioned above nucleotide analogues). As with anti-HIV drugs, these antivirals should be taken for life to avoid dangerous viral rebounds and liver disease. That's why developing new drugs that are more effective against HBV is a top health priority," Prof. Guidotti says.

In recent years Guidotti and his collaborators have identified a new class of antivirals that could contribute to a definitive cure for chronic hepatitis B: orally administered small molecules that prevent viral capsid formation and, consequently, virus replication.

"Development of these drugs is currently underway in collaboration with an American biotech company and it is expected that human trials could begin in a little over a year," Prof. Guidotti concludes.

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