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Rino Rappuoli, Ph.D., currently serves as Global Head Vaccines Research for Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics (Siena, Italy), a position he has held since 2006.
Dr. Rappuoli’s research career has focused primarily on disease-causing bacteria, including the microbes that cause diphtheria, pertussis, cholera, and meningococcal meningitis. He has improved the scientific understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which these pathogens cause disease and applied this knowledge to the rational design of innovative tools to prevent infection and disease.
After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Siena, Dr. Rappuoli conducted postgraduate research at Rockefeller University and at Harvard Medical School.
In the mid-1980s, while at the Sclavo Research Center in Siena, Dr. Rappuoli began heading a research project on Bordetella pertussis that led to the first recombinant bacterial vaccine against whooping cough. The mutant form of pertussis toxin used in the whooping cough vaccine was the first protein constructed by rational drug design to be approved for use in humans. His work at Sclavo also led to the development of a licensed conjugate vaccine against meningococcus C. Currently, Dr. Rappuoli is developing a vaccine against group B meningococcus using a genome-based approach termed reverse vaccinology. He also is leading research to develop new and improved influenza vaccines, including cell culture-based influenza vaccines and pandemic H5N1 influenza vaccines formulated with the novel MF59 adjuvant.
Dr. Rappuoli is co-founder of the field of cellular microbiology, a discipline that merges cell biology and microbiology. The scientific community adopted this new discipline after he and his colleagues published a review paper titled “Cellular Microbiology Emerging” in the journal Science in 1996.
Dr. Rappuoli has received numerous awards and honors throughout his career. He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences 2005, and also is an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). In 2005 he also was awarded the Gold Medal by the President of the Italian Republic for his contributions to public healthcare.