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Tissue culture (Part 1)

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Called to Italy
Renato Dulbecco Scientist
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Quando poi, dopo qualche tempo, quando ero presidente, c'è stata una riunione a Washington organizzata dal console- non dal console, dall'ambasciatore d'Italia Sì, è stata la famosa riunione che poi a Washington- A Washington, percio con partecipanti sia americani sia italiani, e io sono andato lì e ho presentato di nuovo quello, spiegando la situazione cioè, come già, a quel momento, il processo cominciava ad andare avanti, insomma, i progressi che si erano fatti. E lì, a quel meeting, c'era Luigi Rossi Bernardi, che era il capo del CNR e mi è venuto a parlare e dice- Se fai questo, perché non vieni in Italia, organizziamo un Progetto Genoma italiano?. Ah- ho detto- Vabbene, vengo. E difatti questo è stato quando- insomma- sono venuto in Italia non in maniera permanente, ma così un po' temporanea, passando parecchi mesi qui, ecc. Si è sviluppato questo progetto italiano, ma naturalmente dati i mezzi molto limitati che avevamo, potevamo solo limitarci a considerare alcuni punti specifici, considerare certe parti del- di un certo cromosoma- c'è stato un contributo, ma un contributo molto limitato su questo. Ma nel progetto- quando hai lanciato per l'Italia- nella riunione di Washington, non c'era stato, se non vado errata, anche un supporto, una spinta, in quel momento, da Montedison in quel Progetto Cultura o no? No, non c'entrava- non ha partecipato in maniera diretta a quello. E così poi insomma, alla fine- questo progetto in Italia è durato 5 anni- e alla fine dei 5 anni, con le cose come vanno in Italia, dicevano che volevano considerare, ma bisognava fare una pre- presentazione, una pre- analisi, un'analisi- tutto ci vuole anni- Insomma, dopo alla fine boh, 3 o 4 anni, ho detto- Guardate, non pensateci più che, non val la pena, anche se volete fare ormai, è troppo tardi completamente e perciò l'idea è stata abbandonata. Allora, ho sviluppato connessioni durante quel periodo con un gruppo di ricercatori di Milano, che erano del CNR di Milano, e che- erano interessati su quello che avevo cominciato a fare sui geni della mammella e del cancro della mammella- insomma, ne abbiamo parlato e loro dicevano che era bene continuare questo lavoro qui a Milano, perché a Milano c'è l'Istituto dei Tumori, dove hanno molti cancri umani e dove, perciò, avrei potuto ottenere del materiale per studiare il cancro umano, che negli Stati Uniti è molto difficile da ottenere, perché negli Stati Uniti, se c'è un campione di cancro, essenzialmente vogliono usarlo tutto per esaminare in dettaglio qualunque- per non avere sorprese di nessun tipo, che è molto- piuttosto esagerato, però comprensibile. E allora, così, avevo deciso che valeva la pena, ci siamo messi insieme per un po' di tempo, ho lavorato qui con loro- Chi era, il gruppo dove c'era Vezzoni? Il gruppo dove c'era Vezzoni, ma c'è una ricercatrice molto brava, che si chiama Ileana Zucchi, e lei era veramente quella che faceva tutto e gli altri erano, così, accessori.
Then when, after some time, when I was Chairman, there was a meeting in Washington organised by the Consul- no not the Consul- by the Italian Ambassador. Yes, it was the famous meeting in Washington- In Washington, so with both American and Italian participants, and I went there and I presented this again, explaining the situation, as it was already at that time, the process was starting to progress, progress was being made. And there at this meeting, was Luigi Rossi Bernardi, who was the head of the Italian National Research Council and he came over to speak to me and said -If you are doing this, why don't you come to Italy, we are organising an Italian Genome Project? -Oh, I said -Okay, I'll come. And in fact this was when- well- I came to Italy though not permanently, but temporarily, spending a few months here, etc. This Italian project was developed, but naturally given the very limited resources that we had, we had to restrict ourselves to considering particular specific aspects, to consider certain parts of- of a certain chromosome- it was a contribution, but a very limited contribution to this. But in the project- when you launched it in Italy- in the meeting in Washington, was there not, if I'm not mistaken, also support, incentive, at that time, from Montedison in the Culture Project or not? No, that had nothing to do with it- he didn't participate directly in this. And so then, in the end- this project in Italy lasted 5 years- and at the end of 5 years, with things as they were going in Italy, they said that they wanted to consider it, but needed to carry out a pre-presentation, a pre-analysis, an analysis- all of which would take years. In short, in the end, after 3 to 4 years, I said -Look, don't think about it any more, it's not worth it, even if you wanted to before, it's far too late and so the idea was abandoned. Then, I developed connections during this period with a group of researchers in Milan, who were from the National Research Council in Milan, who were interested in what I had started to work on to do with breast genes and breast cancer, in fact, we spoke about it and they said that I could continue this work here in Milan, because they had the Institute of Tumours in Milan, where they have many human cancers and where I could obtain the material to study human cancer, which in the United States it is very difficult to obtain, because in the United States, if there is a cancer sample, they want to use it all to examine something in detail- so as not to have surprises of any type, which is very- rather exaggerated, although understandable. And so I decided that it would be worth it, we started together for a little while, I worked with them- Which was, the group with Vezzoni? The group with Vezzoni, but there is a very good researcher, who is called Ileana Zucchi, and she is truly the one that did everything and the others were, accessories.

The Italian biologist Renato Dulbecco (1914-2012) had early success isolating a mutant of the polio virus which was used to create a life-saving vaccine. Later in his career, he initiated the Human Genome Project and was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975 for furthering our understanding of cancer caused by viruses.

Listeners: Paola De Paoli Marchetti

Paola De Paoli Marchetti is a science journalist who graduated with an honours degree in foreign languages and literature from the University Ca’Foscari, Venice. She has been a science journalist since the 1960s and has been on the staff of the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore since 1970. She was elected president of UGIS (Italian Association of Science Journalists) in 1984. She has been a Member of the Board of EUSJA (European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations, Strasbourg), and was its president in 1987-1988 and 1998-2000. In May 2000 she was unanimously elected president emeritus. She was a member of the National Council of Italian Journalists (1992-1998). From 2002 to 2004 she was member of the working group for scientific communication of the National Committee for Biotechnology. She has also been a consultant at the Italian Ministry of Research and Technology and editor-in-chief of the publication MRST, policy of science and technology. She has co-authored many publications in the field of scientific information, including Le biotecnologie in Italia, Le piste della ricerca and Luna vent’anni dopo.

Duration: 4 minutes, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008