Luca Varani graduated in chemistry in Milan (Italy) and obtained a PhD at the prestigious MRC-Laboratory of Molecular Biology (Cambridge, UK) using molecular and structural biology to study RNA-protein interactions and their impact on gene expression.
High caliber publications, culminated in the determination of the largest NMR structure available at the time, allowed him to move to Stanford with a “long term EMBO fellowship”, reserved to the best young molecular biologists in Europe.
In California, Luca Varani completed the first magnetic resonance study on TCR/pMHC complexes.
Since 2007 he leads the Structural Biology group of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (Bellinzona, CH), investigating the interactions between pathogens and antibodies in rare and neglected diseases such as Dengue or Zika virus, Prion or rare form of Leukemias.
The NMR approach developed at Stanford was pushed forward at the IRB, where experimentally guided computational simulations yield the atomic structure of antibody/pathogen complexes.
The approach allowed rationally modifying an antibody increasing its ability to neutralize Dengue virus by 50 fold utilizing, for the first time, only computational tools.
More recently, the strategy allowed designing a bispecific antibody that prevents Zika virus escape mechanisms. Recent high impact publications appeared in journals such as Cell, Science, Nat. Cell. Biol. and PNAS.
The group uses a highly multidisciplinary approach, varying from structure determination to cellular experiments, computational biology, biophysics, protein and antibody production and engineering, nanoparticles and confocal microscopy.