Excellence Awardee 2014

Ilaria Capua, Legnaro (Padua), Italy




Ilaria Capua
Laboratorio Virologia, Instituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie
Legnaro (Padua), Italy

She is currently a Member of the Italian Parliament and Vice-President of the 7th Parliamentary Commission for Culture, Science and Education. Therefore, she has taken a leave of absence from her position as Director of the Division of Comparative Biomedical Sciences at the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, Legnaro (Padua), Italy; her division hosts the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Reference Laboratories for animal and avian influenzas and Newcastle disease, rabies and the OIE Collaborating Centre for Diseases at the Human-Animal Interface. She is also a visiting professor at the Centre for Virus Research at the University of Glasgow. Her group in Legnaro of over 70 staff provides diagnostic expertise globally and conducts cutting-edge research on influenza viruses and viral zoonoses.
She has extensive experience in coordinating international research projects funded by the European Commission, and has also worked closely with FAO, managing Technical Cooperation Projects covering 40 countries, and with OIE in international activities and twinning projects. She is author or co-author of over 200 publications in peer-reviewed journals as well as editor of scientific books and of books and articles for the general public. In 2006 she ignited an international debate on enhancing interdisciplinary collaboration to foster transparency of genetic data of influenza viruses, which has promoted a review of international health policies on data sharing to improve pandemic preparedness. In 2007 she was among the winners of the Scientific American 50 Award and, in 2008, was included among Seed Magazine’s Revolutionary Minds for leadership in science policy. She is the first female recipient of the Penn Vet World Leadership in Animal Health Award, the most prestigious award in veterinary medicine (2011). In 2012 she became a Grande Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana, the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic awarded by the Italian President.

Research interests
Her areas of research include viral diseases of birds, mammals and fish, with particular reference to zoonotic viral infections. Her group is actively involved in the epidemiology, evolution and phylogeny of avian influenza viruses and in the development of novel vaccines for influenza infections. In addition, studies on interspecies transmission mechanisms and on the metabolic consequences of influenza infection have become core parts of her research activities. The group also functions as an international reference laboratory for rabies and lyssaviruses, which is involved in molecular evolution studies and the development of novel control and prevention strategies. Other areas of interest include diagnosis and control of Newcastle disease and coronavirus infections in poultry, pathogenesis and vaccine development for viral diseases of fish and poultry and research on selected viral zoonotic agents, including astroviruses, West Nile virus and related flaviviruses. The application and integration of advanced tools in molecular genetics and bioinformatics for research focusing on infectious diseases at the animal-human interface is also a key activity of her group. Ilaria Capua was presented with her award during the ESCMID Excellence Award ceremony by Gunnar Kahlmeter, ESCMID President, and Giuseppe Cornaglia, ESCMID Past President, on Monday, 12 May 2014, during the ECCMID 2014 in Barcelona. During this ceremony she gave her recipient's lecture: ‘Close encounters of the third kind – pathogens and globalisation’.