CRI Funded Scientists

Pietro Fontana, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow

Boston Children's Hospital

Area of Research: All Cancers

The innate immune system detects infections and sounds the alarm using molecular platforms known as inflammasomes. These multiprotein complexes recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) from bacteria as well as danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) produced by the body’s cells, and then produce inflammatory cytokines to induce cell death. Despite the essential role of inflammasomes in immunity and cancer, the mechanism of their activation and signaling remains elusive, especially at the molecular or structural level. Without this fundamental information, it is difficult to understand their role in diseases and develop drugs to target their activity therapeutically.

Dr. Fontana aims to deepen our understanding of the role of inflammasomes—in particular, the NLRP1 inflammasome—in diseases. For this purpose, he will adopt a multi-disciplinary approach characterize the mechanisms and the physiological function of the NLRP1 inflammasome. These studies will greatly impact the development of therapies for diseases where NLRP1 is involved, such as cancer and other diseases driven by excessive inflammation.

Projects and Grants

Structural and Biochemical Characterization of the NLRP1 Inflammasome

Boston Children’s Hospital | All Cancers | 2020 | Hao Wu, PhD


Targeting stem-loop 1 of the SARS-CoV-2 5′ UTR to suppress viral translation and Nsp1 evasion

Setu M. Vora et al | PNAS | 2022 | DOI

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