EAVI2020 Students in Focus: Alessandra Gallinaro from the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) in Italy.
My name is Alessandra Gallinaro and I am a Postdoc Researcher at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) in Rome, Italy.
The road to my PhD
Whilst studying Medical Biotechnology at “La Sapienza” University in Rome I was captivated by virology and immunology. I have been involved in the HIV field since obtaining my Bachelor’s Degree, during which I worked alongside clinicians studying drug resistance in patients being treated with HAART. After a fellowship at the Italian National AIDS Centre, in 2014 I transferred to Dr. Andrea Cara’s lab (ISS) where I am still located.
Last year, I achieved my PhD in Experimental Medicine, in collaboration with the University “La Sapienza” in Rome. My PhD project focused on the development of an HIV-vaccine using Integrase Defective Lentiviral Vectors (IDLVs) as a delivery platform. As immunogens, we selected two of the EAVI2020 antigens to induce cellular immune response and IDLVs expressing UFOs antigens to elicit broadly neutralising antibodies (bNAbs).
Being part of EAVI2020’s Training Programme
In the last four years, I have been part of EAVI2020’s Education and Training programme. I attended a majority of the courses and found them very beneficial in broadening my knowledge and understanding regarding various aspects of the research in order to develop an effective vaccine against HIV: B- and T-cell immunity, rational design of vaccine candidates, use of different vaccine delivery systems, animal models.
We were given the chance to visit the animal facilities in Paris and I thoroughly enjoyed the wet workshop in Madrid where I gained knowledge of how to characterise neutralising antibodies. It was also very fascinating to understand how industrial production of protein vaccines is made with GMP procedures at the Polymun Scientific in Vienna.
Thanks to EAVI2020 training courses and annual meetings, I had the possibility to write abstracts, create scientific posters, and present my project’s progression. I have been given the great opportunity to improve my skills, both orally and in written communication and to share data and ideas amongst other students and PIs.
EAVI2020 annual meetings were ideal in acquiring contacts and collaborations with the EAVI partners. Furthermore, interaction and an exchange of views with some of the most important people within the field of HIV research was very invigorating. I learned the importance of a scientific community, in which everyone collaborates making available its own expertise and resources in order to reach the same goal.
In my foreseeable future, I will continue to work within Andrea Cara’s team, striving to implement IDLV platform for UFOs antigens to further increase its immunogenicity.
Outside the lab
When out of my workplace, I like spending time with my family and friends and I enjoy a relaxing stroll along the promenade. I love travelling and I’m also a fan of detective series and mystery books.