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Viral Oncology
Dpt of Exp Oncology
Istituto Naz. Tumori "Fond Pascale"
Via M. Semmola n. 142
80131 Napoli - ITALY
NIH Format Biographical sketch: Franco M. Buonaguro, M.D. Director of Molecular Biology and Viral Oncology Unit at Natl Cancer Inst, Naples - ITALY
Dr Franco M. Buonaguro, born in 1952 in Sant'Agata dei Goti (Benevento - Italy), has been interested since his years at the Medical School on cell differentiation and transformation with several agents, such as chemical, physical and biological agents. Since 1983 his activity has been focused on the role of viral agents in human cancers, in particular on the role of DNA viruses such us Herpesvirus (HCMV, HHV-8, EBV) and Papillomavirus (HPV) in the etiopathogenesis of Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) and in genital cancers, respectively. Several studies have been performed also on HIV/AIDS and more recently an HIV Vaccine Program has been established.
HIV – AIDS studies. In collaboration with the Uganda Virus Research Center, since 1986, he has conducted AIDS research within the frame of the Uganda AIDS Program and the World Health Organization (Geneva), supported also by the MCD-2 project of the ICSC-World Laboratory (Lausanne), which in 1995 financed the establishment of the East African AIDS Research Center. The following results have been obtained:
Biomolecular and phylogenetic analysis on Ugandan isolates. The bio-molecular analysis performed in two sequential studies on the hypervariable region V3 of the envelope gp120 indicates that HIV-1 isolates identified in Northern and Southern Uganda cluster into the A and D clades with a prevalence of the clade A (Buonaguro L. et al J. Virol., 1995 and in preparation). Although the divergence among these samples is constantly increasing (>20%), the V3 loop region, which is one of the HIV-1 major antigenic epitopes, shows a high stability that suggests a possibility of a wide immune protection with a discrete number of epitopes. These studies are performed within the frame of the UNAIDS Network for the Isolation and Characterization of HIV-1 Isolates from different regions of the World, particularly from regions with highest incidence/prevalence of HIV-1 infections.
Biomolecular and phylogenetic characterization of HIV-1 isolates in Italy. The surveillance of HIV high-risk groups allowed the identification of HIV B-clade members as the prevalent strains in the Italian infected i.v. drug users, which are characterized by a slow viral growth and low infectivity (Buonaguro L. et al. AIDS, 1994). On going is the enrollment of a cohort of subjects seroconverted in the last year in order to evaluate the biomolecular evolution of HIV-1 strains involved in the epidemic of our region. Furthermore in 1999 we have started a collaboration with Prof. A. Lazzarin, Head of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and Dr L. Lopalco, Head of the Immunobiology Laboratory, of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, to analyze the HIV-1 strains in the HIV-1 recent seroconverted individuals, who attend such structure. The viral isolates identified in the first 10 recruited subjects cluster into the B clade, indicating that also in Lombardia, the Italian region with the highest incidence of HIV-1 infection, the B clade is still prevalent, although the transmission route has been shifting from the needle sharing to heterosexual contacts.
Development of an anti-HIV-1 vaccine based on the production of Virus-like particles (VLPs) in a Baculovirus expression system. In collaboration with Prof. H. Wolf, Director of the Microbiology Institute of the University of Regensburg, Germany, a vector expressing HIV-1 gag and env genes has been engineered for the presentation of the gp120 on the p55 gag precursor (Pr55gag)-based VLPs. The gp120 used for these VLPs has been characterized in our laboratory from one Ugandan isolate of the clade A, and shows a high degree of stability in the hypervariable region V3 (Buonaguro L. et al. AIDS Res. Hum. Retroviruses, 1998). These HIV-VLPs show a strong in vivo immunogenicity in Balb/c mice with induction of both humoral and cellular arms of immune response, without adjuvants (Buonaguro L. et al., 2001). This represents, in our knowledge, one of the first vaccines designed to be targeted versus non-B HIV-1 strains, which are overwhelmingly prevalent in the world epidemic.
Dr Buonaguro is Director of the Molecular Biology and Viral Oncology Unit at the Natl Cancer Institute “Fond Pascale “ Napoli-Italy. He graduated cum laude in 1977 at the “Federico II” Medical School in Naples - Italy, where achieved the specialty in Endocrinology in 1982 and the Specialty in Microbiology and Virology in 1992. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Department of Cell Biology, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL, USA (1979-81), a WHO Fellowship and research associate position at the Tumor Biology Program, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA, USA (1983-86), he became an assistant member of the Experimental Oncology F – Viral Oncology at Natl Cancer Institute in Naples. He was promoted associate member in 1991, and became full member in 2001. Since 2008 he is Director of Molecular Biology and Viral Oncology Unit, as well as of the AIDS Ref Center, at the Natl Cancer Inst "Fond Pascale", Naples - ITALY
Dr Buonaguro dedicated a lot of energy for Developing-Countries’ needs, in particular he has been involved in a large International Programs on AIDS Research in Uganda, one of the Countries most heavily hit by the epidemic, developing and coordinating the ICSC World Lab East Africa AIDS Research Center at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) - Entebbe, of which he has been co-Director since 1995 and Director since April 2001. He is member of the World Federation of Scientists since 1997, has served as WHO virology consultant in 1996 and 2003. Member of WHO/ UNAIDS Network for HIV isolation and Characterization since 1996; Member WHO HPV DNA International Collaborative Study Group since 2002.
With respect to editorial activities Dr Buonaguro is Editor in chief of Infectious Agents and Cancer a 2006-established online journal published by BioMed Central at; Managing Editor of Frontiers in Bioscience; Editorial Board Member of Chinese Journal of Medicine []; Guest editor of Plant-derived vaccines [].
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