Profession & Career

ESCMID Panorama

ESCMID Excellence Awardee 2011

Rino Rappuoli, Global Head Vaccines Research, Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics, Siena, Italy

Rino Rappuoli is the author/co-author of more than 500 scientific publications, the majority in peer-reviewed journals. He has edited more than twelve books in various fields of vaccinology. The excellence of his work has been recognised by a long series of international awards, such as the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize in 1991, the European Federation of the Pharmaceutical Industries Association Award in 1992, the Arima Award for Applied Microbiology in 2002, the Gold Medal Award by the President of the Italian Republic in 2005, the Miami Nature Biotechnology Winter Symposium Special Achievement Award in 2007, the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal Award in 2007, among others. In addition, in 2005 he was elected as a full member to the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

Research interests
In the past decade Rino Rappuoli has become one of the major experts in vaccines and vaccinology unanimously recognised worldwide. Thanks to his contributions and original thinking, he has changed the way vaccines are made and the way they are conceived in the research arena, and he had a great impact on the public health perspective. His contributions in the field of vaccinology encompass broad areas. He characterised the non-toxic mutant of diphtheria toxin (referred to as CRM197) that is now utilised as a carrier molecule for many efficacious conjugate vaccines, such as those against pneumococci, Haemophilus, meningococci, etc. His original work paved the way to the genetic detoxification of bacterial toxins which led to the development of a novel vaccine against pertussis and to development of a family of strong mucosal adjuvants based on Escherichia coli heat-labile enterotoxin. He first conceived and applied the notion of reverse vaccinology, based on the systematic mining of microbial genomes. This novel experimental approach has allowed the development of a vaccine against group B meningococci which is showing now its efficacy in clinical studies in very young children. This new methodology is now being successfully applied to the development of vaccines to other bacteria, such as group A and B streptococci, pneumococci, etc. Last but not least, his work on the development of novel adjuvant allowed the registration of the first oil-in-water adjuvant (MF59) for human use with an influenza vaccine. This work represented the basis for the development of efficacious vaccines against pandemic influenza, both of avian and of swine origin. In addition to his active involvement in the private sector, he has always been actively involved in aspects related to development of vaccines for developing countries. For several years Rino Rappuoli served in and chaired various committees, including the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), dealing with vaccine development. More recently, he was instrumental in the creation in 2008 of the Novartis Vaccines Institutes for Global Health (NVGH), whose mission is the development of vaccines against neglected diseases.