Basics of molecular virology and gene therapy (2020/2021)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Donato Zipeto
Donato Zipeto
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
II semestre dal Mar 1, 2021 al Jun 11, 2021.

Lesson timetable

Go to lesson schedule

Learning outcomes

A: viruses as "enemies"
Provide the student with basic notions about 1) major bio-health viruses, 2) zoonoses and underlying mechanisms 3) emerging and re-emerging viral infections: molecular, biological and environmental causes, 5) arrested zoonoses (SARS and MERS), at risk (avian influenza) and non arrested (HIV / AIDS), 5) pandemic risk, 6) antiviral vaccinations, 7) other control and intervention measures

B: viruses like "tools"
Provide the student with information on: 1) Principles and limits of gene therapy, 2) Approaches and types of vectors, 3) Non-viral vectors, 4) Editing genes, 5) Major viral vectors, Advantages and disad-vantages, 6) gene therapy clinical trials: disappointments and hopes, 7) current and future prospects

At the completion of the course students:
- will have a basic understanding of zoonoses and viruses
- will have acquired the knowledge necessary to understand how viruses can be engineered and used as therapeutic agents (vectors for gene therapy, oncolytic viruses).


Molecular Virology:
• Arbovirus (West Nile, Chikungunya, Zyka)
• Paramyxovirus (Nipah and Hendra viruses)
• Monkeypox and smallpox
• Hantavirus
• Filovirus (Ebola, Marburg) and hemorrhagic fevers
• Coronavirus: SARS, MERS, SARS-CoV-2
• Influenza, origin of epidemics and pandemics
• Avian influenza and swine flu, determinants of pathogenicity
• HIV: Discovery, Origin, Epidemiology
• HIV: structure, infectious cycle, pathogenesis, natural resistance
• HIV: treatments and therapies (microbicides, vaccines, antivirals)
• AIDS: new therapeutic perspectives
• New vaccine approaches: biotechnology and virological applications, molecular approaches for the development of antiviral vaccines, adjuvants

Gene Therapy:
• Introduction to gene therapy
• Non viral vectors, siRNA and miRNA, peptide vectors
• Gene editing: ZFN, TALEN, Crispr / Cas9
• Viral vectors, generality
• Adenovirus (AV)
• Adeno-associated virus (AAV)
• Herpes and poxvirus vectors
• Retroviral and lentiviral vectors
• Clinical trials: hematologic, metabolic, neurodegenerative, neuromuscular and dystrophies, cystic fibrosis
• Antitumor Gene Therapy, Oncolytic Viruses

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
M. Giacca Terapia genica (Edizione 1) Springer Verlag 2011 978-8-847-01988-1
D.Harper Virus. Applicazioni biotecnologiche e strategie di controllo. (Edizione 1) Zanichelli 2013 978-8-808-17532-8

Assessment methods and criteria

The exam consists of an oral exam, during which the student will be presenting a seminar of about 15 minutes on a course-related topic (virus, gene therapy) or in-depth topics covered during the course. The presentation will be accompanied by specific questions to test the appropriate knowledge and preparation on the topics discussed iduring the course.