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Vincenzo Summa, Ph.D.

Vice President, Drug Discovery

Dr. Vincenzo Summa has worked at IRBM, originally the Italian site of Merck Research Laboratories, since 1996. Over the course of his career, he has covered positions of increasing responsibility in the medicinal chemistry field and has been involved in the development of several preclinical development compounds. He currently serves as Vice-President of Drug Discovery, overseeing the IRBM drug discovery activities. Dr. Summa has been recognized by the American Chemical Society and inducted into its Heroes of Chemistry hall of fame twice, first in 2013, for his contribution to Raltegravir (ISENTRESS®), a first-in-class HIV integrase inhibitor approved as first line therapy for the treatment of HIV positive patients; and in 2017, for Grazoprevir (ZEPATIER®). Dr. Summa earned his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Germany.

Alberto Bresciani, M.Sc.

Head, Screening Technologies

Alberto Bresciani joined IRBM/Merck in 2007 where he served in the group of automated lead optimization. He contributed to the production of preclinical candidates in the field of oncology (SMO antagonists) as Automation Specialist before the reorganization of the institute as an independent company. He was part of the team who drove the reorganization of IRBM Science Park into its current incarnation. Today he serves as the Head of the Screening Technologies unit, and he is in charge of assay development, high-throughput screening, and compound management and protein biomarkers. He is also responsible for compound management and screening at the Italian National Compound Collection and Screening Center (CNCCS). Alberto Bresciani obtained his M.Sc. at the University of Milano Bicocca, is a former member of the general committee of the European Laboratory Robotics Interest Group (ELRIG), is a member of the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) and sits on the scientific board of Thalamoss.

Steven Harper, Ph.D.

Head, Medicinal Chemistry

Dr. Steven Harper joined IRBM/Merck in 1996 as a member of the medicinal chemistry department. Over the span of 13 years Dr. Harper made notable contributions to a range of projects across multiple disease indications. He co-led the IRBM medicinal chemistry team responsible for the discovery of Grazoprevir, an HCV protease inhibitor that forms part of ZEPATIER®, a marketed interferon-free regimen for hepatitis C virus. Dr. Harper was part of the core team that helped reorganize IRBM as an independent company, and his expertise in the drug discovery arena is currently harnessed in his role as Head of Medicinal Chemistry at IRBM Science Park. He was inducted into the American Chemical Society hall of fame as a Hero of Chemistry in 2017 for his contributions to ZEPATIER®. Dr. Harper graduated with a first-class honours B.Sc. degree from the University of Dundee, and earned a Ph.D. in organic synthesis from the University of Sheffield, UK. Prior to joining IRBM/Merck, he also worked at the University of Siena.

Licia Tomei, Ph.D.

Head, Biochemistry

Dr. Licia Tomei joined IRBM/Merck in 1991 as a Group Leader for drug discovery efforts targeting hepatitis C virus and, later, in the cardiovascular disease field. During her tenure in the antiviral department, she contributed to the worldwide scientific community by providing some of the early data that was fundamental in understanding HCV biology and providing the basis for the initiation of drug discovery efforts, eventually leading to Grazoprevir (ZEPATIER®). Since 2010, she is the Head of the Biochemistry Unit, where some of her activities focus on the development of novel biologics through IRBM’s proprietary phage display library. Prior to IRBM, Dr. Tomei was a postdoctoral fellow at the CEINGE, University of Naples, Italy, as well as at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany. Dr. Tomei earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Naples, Italy.

Elisabetta Bianchi

Head, Peptide Chemistry

Elisabetta Bianchi started her career in the pharmaceutical industry in the Peptide Chemistry Group at Eniricerche, followed by positions in Sclavo and Menarini Ricerche before joining IRBM in 1991. After full IRBM acquisition by Merck Research Laboratories in 2007 she was appointed Senior Investigator in the Peptide Center of Excellence at Merck. As project leader and member of Merck Early Development Teams she contributed to the preclinical and clinical development of peptide therapeutics and vaccines in different therapeutic areas, including antivirals, metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. She earned her M. Sc. in Chemistry from Università La Sapienza in Rome and a 2nd level Master degree in Preclinical and Clinical Development of Drugs from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome. In 2014 she obtained the Italian National Academic Qualifications as associate professor in Organic Chemistry and Molecular Biology.

Annalise Di Marco, Ph.D.

Head, In Vitro Pharmacology

Dr. Annalise Di Marco joined IRBM/Merck in 1999 as Research Pharmacologist, after conducting her doctoral work in the same labs. She held positions of increasing responsibility until 2010 when she was part of the core team during the reorganization of IRBM into an independent company. In the same year, she was appointed Head of the In Vitro Pharmacology unit. Dr. Di Marco earned her Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology and Pathology from the University of Perugia, Italy, and holds a M.Sc. in Preclinical and Clinical Drug Development from the University “La Cattolica” in Rome, Italy.

Edith Monteagudo, Ph.D.

Head, Preclinical Research

Dr. Edith Monteagudo joined IRBM/Merck in 2001 as Senior Research Fellow to support drug metabolism activities. Since then she held positions of increasing responsibilities until her promotion to DMPK Site Head in 2007. Dr. Monteagudo has great expertise in supporting drug discovery programs from lead identification to regulatory filing of both small molecules and peptides. She contributed to the discovery of Raltegravir (ISENTRESS®) a first-in-class HIV integrase inhibitor; Grazoprevir (ZEPATIER®), a novel HCV protease inhibitor; and Niraparib (ZEJULATM), the first and only PARP inhibitor approved for the maintenance treatment of women with recurrent ovarian cancer. Since 2010, she serves as Head of Preclinical Research where she oversees preclinical characterization efforts. Prior to joining IRBM, Dr. Monteagudo was a Group Leader at Menarini Ricerche and a post-doctoral fellow at the Università La Sapienza in Rome, Italy. Dr. Monteagudo earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Andrea Caricasole, Ph.D.

Head, Neuroscience Therapeutic Unit

Dr. Andrea Caricasole joined IRBM in 2013 where he first served as Head of Molecular Pharmacology before being appointed, in 2014, as Head of the Neuroscience therapeutic unit. In this role he has increased his focus on protein misfolding diseases in neurodegeneration. Prior to joining IRBM, Dr. Caricasole served as Head of Pharmacology between 2011 and 2013 at Siena Biotech, contributing to the development of a portfolio of drug discovery projects in Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease. Prior to that role, he was Head of the Neuroscience department in the same company from 2009 to 2011, and before that, Head of Neurobiology between 2002 and 2009. Previously, Dr. Caricasole worked as a researcher at the Università La Sapienza in Rome, Italy, the GlaxoWellcome Medicines Research Centre in Verona, the Royal Netherlands Institute for Developmental Biology, and the University of Oxford. He earned his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Oxford.

Giacomo Paonessa, Ph.D.

Head, Infectious Diseases Therapeutic Unit

Dr. Giacomo Paonessa joined IRBM/Merck at the very beginning, in 1990, where he worked as Group leader concentrating on the molecular mechanisms of action of IL-6 and other cytokines of the same family. Starting in 1999, he oversaw drug discovery efforts targeting the hepatitis C virus for the identification and optimization of leads for preclinical development of inhibitors of HCV polymerase and protease. Since 2010, he serves at IRBM as Head of the Infectious and Neglected Diseases therapeutic unit, focusing his efforts on the search for novel therapeutic targets and drugs for parasitic diseases.
Dr. Paonessa earned his Ph.D. at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität in Heidelberg, Germany.