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Dr Paola Bonfanti
  • UCL Excellence Fellowship
  • ICH Development Bio & Cancer Prog
  • UCL GOS Institute of Child Health
  • Faculty of Pop Health Sciences

Paola Bonfanti is currently Principal Investigator at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health. She also holds an appointment at the UCL Institute of Immunity and Transplantation and a Secondment at the Francis Crick Institute. 

Paola graduated in Medicine and Surgery with honours from the University of Milan in 2001 and subsequently moved to the Sanford Burnham Institute in La Jolla, California where she worked on neural differentiation of human embryonic stem cells. In 2008 she completed her PhD at the EPFL in Lausanne under the supervision of Prof. Yann Barrandon. Her work demonstrated that thymic epithelial cells have the ability to reconstitute the thymus microenvironment but also all differentiated progeny of skin stem cells (Nature, 2010). This work led to the identification of a multipotent epithelial stem cell in the embryonic, neonatal and also adult thymus. 

In 2010, thanks to an EMBO Long Term Fellowship she moved to the Diabetes Research Centre (DRC) in Brussels to work on pancreas regeneration with a project focusing on the identification of lineage relationship of pancreatic stem/progenitor cells. In 2011 Paola was awarded the Young Investigator Award in Innovative Therapy for Type 1 Diabetes from the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation supported by an unrestricted grant from Roche (EFSD/JDRF/Roche). During her period in Brussels Paola’s research work contributed to several publications focusing on potency of expandable pancreatic progenitors and plasticity of adult acinar cells (EMBOJ, 2013; Nat Biotechnol, 2014; StemCells&Dev, 2015).

Paola was awarded a UCL Rosetrees Excellence Fellowship in 2013 to pursue her interest in epithelial stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. In 2015 she obtained a Starting grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for her project on thymus biology and in 2016 she was selected as Principal Investigator at the Francis Crick Institute. 

Research Summary

The main goal of our research is to understand and manipulate the function of human thymus, which is the primary lymphoid organ essential for the establishment of immune T cell competence and induction of self-tolerance.  Our work brings a multidisciplinary approach by combining epithelial cell biology, novel tissue engineering technologies, and molecular analysis of T cell development. The outcome of this work will set the basis for novel clinical protocols for organ transplantation and immunodeficiency disorders.

Because of a broader interest in epithelial stem cell biology our group is also studying self-renewal and differentiation potency of human epithelial oesophageal cells with the aim of providing a functional and growing epithelium for a tissue engineering approach for neonatal atresia.

Finally, we are studying human pancreas development and building in vitro model systems to dissect fate and potency of pancreatic progenitors. 

01-JUL-2016 Seconded Principal Investigator   The Francis Crick Institute, United Kingdom
01-OCT-2013 UCL Excellence Fellow and Senior Research Associate Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health University College London, United Kingdom
01-MAR-2010 – 30-SEP-2013 EMBO Postdoctoral Fellow Diabetes Research Centre Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium
01-JUL-2008 – 28-FEB-2010 Research Associate Experimental Surgery Department University Hospital Lausanne (CHUV), Switzerland
01-JAN-2004 – 30-JUN-2008 PhD Student School of Life Sciences École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland
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