May 2020: Natalia Pellegata

Natalia's scientific work in one sentence

Translational research on neuroendocrine tumors and experimental tumor therapy.

Short CV

Highest Level of education: 1989, Biology, University of Pavia, Italy
Promotion: 1993, University of Pavia, Italy
Habilitation: 2011, TUM, Faculty of Medicine
Actual Position: Group Leader
Division Neuroendocrinology

What is - in your opinion - your best publication?

Pellegata NS, Dieguez-Lucena JL, Joensuu T, Lau S, Montgomery KT, Krahe R, Kivela T, Kucherlapati R, Forsius H and de la Chapelle A. (2000) Mutation in KERA, encoding keratocan, cause cornea plana. Nature Genet. 25, 91-95.

What are your most important prizes and memberships?

International Fellowship from the Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC)
American Cancer Society International Fellowship for Beginning Investigators (ACSBI-IUCC)
American Italian Cancer Society Fellowship.

European Society of Endocrinology (ESE)
European Neuroendocrine Tumors Society (ENETS)
European Network for Studies on Adrenal Tumors (ENS@T)

5 questions about research - past, present, future

1. What are your primary tasks and responsibilities in your actual position?
As head of a laboratory, I have a comprehensive responsibility for my research group’s activities. Specifically, I define new research projects in accordance with the institute’s strategic goals; I prioritize scientific goals and decide on which projects the group is going to carry through; I acquire third-party funding to support my projects; I hire the members of my team; I assign projects and tasks to the lab members and follow up on the progress and completion of research;  I make sure that the research conducted by the group follows the standard of good scientific practice; I try to improve the working environment within my group by promoting good communication, healthy resolution of conflicts and through a fair management of workloads and responsibilities.

2. What is it that gives you pleasure and/or satisfaction the most?
To see our scientific work, which is the product of years of intense discussions, dedication, and experimental work, being given the proper credit, meaning to see it published in high-ranking journals.

3. Which research question(s) affects you at the moment? What is its social significance?
During my entire career, I have worked on broadening our understanding of the molecular basis of solid tumors. For the past 17 years, I have focused my studies on neuroendocrine tumors. The knowledge gained by characterizing the molecular pathogenesis of these tumors can then be translated to targeted and more effective treatment options for the patients. This is the ultimate goals of all the projects currently ongoing in my laboratory. The results of these projects are expected to improve patients management and their prognosis.

4. Which publication influenced you the most?
I don’t think that I can name just one publication. I could however name a few scientists who I greatly admire for their seminal contributions to our understanding of cancer. I had the privilege to work for one of them: Prof. Albert de la Chapelle, at the Ohio State University. He represents a role model to me, a mentor, due to his relentless curiosity, his dedication to science (he is 87 and still works every day!), to his pioneering work in human cancer genetics (he contributed to the discovery of the genes causing the Lynch Syndrome= hereditary colon cancer), to his fairness as supervisor and loyalty as collaborator, to his skills at building solid interpersonal relationships.

5. What do you like most about the IDC?
I like the IDC because it is a dynamic and international environment, where scientific interactions and collaborations are encouraged, and where possibilities for personal growth are supported. The fact that the research groups at IDC have complementary background and expertise, contributes to the multidisciplinary character of the Institute and helps successfully completing the individual scientific projects.

2 questions beyond research

1. What are your experiences with reconciliation of family or private and working life?
Being a scientists and a mother of two, I have had to learn to be highly efficient at work, to concentrate on and to prioritize my tasks. The passion for my work was never in conflict with my family life. I believe that if one really wants to pursue a career in academic science, one can do it without giving up on having a family.

2. What are your hobbies?
I like to swim, do pilates, cook and read.