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Edoardo Boncinelli


With genetic engineering we could live to be three hundred years old.

During the course of his life which has been spent in the realm of science, he has sought an answer to one of the crucial questions of our age:  "What role do our genes play in determining who we are?" A physicist by training, he began his quest with fundamental research into the genetic alphabet and molecular biology, before slowly extending his interests to biophysics and neuroscience. Lending prestige to the Italian scientific community, he has published nearly 30 books and is considered one of the top scientific advisers in Italy. He is also a passionate Hellenist.


Edoardo Boncinelli was born in Rhodes in 1941 to Florentine parents. He grew up and studied in Florence, earning a degree in Physics from the University of Florence, with a dissertation on Quantum Electronics under the guidance of Giuliano Toraldo di Francia. From 1968 to 1992, he continuously conducted research in the field of genetics at the prestigious National Institute of Genetics and Biophysics in Naples (part of Italy's National Research Center), first on the basis of a grant and then as a researcher. During his many years in Naples, he alternated between research with teaching, lecturing in the faculty of Science and the first faculty of Medicine and Surgery at the Federico II University of Naples. In 1985, he was among the first people to realize the importance of the discoveries about the genetic control of the development of the fruit fly and to extend this information to human beings. With his team, he was able to identify and characterize a family of genes - called homeogenes - that control the correct development of the body, from the head to the coccyx. These discoveries are recognized as a milestone in the biological discoveries of this century, if not of all time. For many years he has studied the placement and formation of the various parts of the body, making discoveries that have been recognized across the world. He specifically focused on embryonic development as well as doing ground-breaking work into the body axis and cerebral cortex. In the wake of this work, his interests slowly shifted towards neuroscience and higher mental functions. He has held the positions of head of the Molecular Biology of Development Laboratory at the Scientific Institute at San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, director of research at the Centre for the Study of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the National Research Institute in Milan and director of SISSA-ISAS International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste. At present, he lectures in the philosophy faculty in biological foundations of knowledge at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan. He is a member of the European Academy and of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). He is also a past president of the Italian Society of Biophysics and Molecular Biology. He has published, with major Italian publishing houses, around 30 books in popular science and in reflections on ethical themes. He is often a guest at conferences, festivals and in TV programs. In 2005, he was awarded the EMBO Award for Communication in the Life Sciences.

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