Advanced molecular and cellular biotechnology

A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
BIO/06 BIO/11
Learning objectives
The main objective of the course is to gain a deep cellular and molecular knowledge of structures and functions of cells and genomes. Innovative approaches and methodologies will be described, with direct implication for biotechnology. While we strive to keep overlaps with other courses to a minimum, our course touches several aspects of genome and cell biology, with specific reference to biotechnology applications, that are also discussed in structural biology, bioinformatics, and genome engineering courses.
Expected learning outcomes
After attending the course, the students will be able to discuss a critical points, experimental designs and interpretation of the results about the topics presented., specifically:
- principles, origin and uses of tissue cultures;
- the use of engineered mice to study gene function in physiology and pathology;
- Drosophila melanogaster as a genetic model for disease;
- rudiment of cell cell signaling and its alterations in tumorigenesis;
- introductions to other experimental model systems (Zebrafish, organoids, biofabrications);
- data protection, ethics of science and research integrity;
- basic and advanced concepts of DNA damage response (DDR);
- basic and advanced concepts of recombination DNA repair;
- basic concepts of cancer therapy approaches, with specific reference to DDR.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
In case of emergency, lessons and exam sessions are online (by Zoom or similar platforms) and there are no changes to the program.
Lessons are also recorded and available through the course's web site in ARIEL platform (c and youtube (Biffo and Vaccari part).
Course syllabus
The program will cover different molecular aspects of cell biology with implications for biotechnology.
Part A (3 CFU; Prof. Vaccari). An Introduction to model system biology; How to connect cell biology data to tissue and organismal contexts; Genetic tools for cell and tissue biology: The case of Drosophila; Forward and reverse genetic approaches for understanding of gene function; Signal transduction biology: The case of Notch and membrane trafficking; In vivo modeling of monogenic diseases.
Part B (2CFU; Prof. Biffo). Principles of cell culture; Established and primary cell lines. Other types of cell cultures: tissue slices and the development of 3D-models; Modern analytical methods. Concepts of differentiation and oncogenesis at work in cell culture.
Part C (5 CFU; Pellicioli). The problem of genome integrity maintenance. Specific arguments: keys factors and mechanisms of the DNA repair and DNA damage checkpoint pathways; DNA recombination mechanisms that drive genome rearrangements and instability; molecular perspective to understand cancer development and treatment; exploiting DNA damage response pathways for genome engineering.
Prerequisites for admission
Good knowledge of Molecular Biology, Genetics and Biochemistry is required.
Teaching methods
Teaching mode: Traditional lectures supported by slides and more interactive lectures with open discussion on selected aspects (Journal and data club). Attendance is highly recommended.
Teaching Resources
Scientific papers and reviews will be indicated during the course and made available to students through the website ( The material is made available only to registered students of the Degree Course in Molecular Biotechnology and Bioinformatics and should not be distributed to others.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The exam is written with half of the evaluation based on open questions (Pellicioli), and a half on multiple-choice questions (Biffo & Vaccari). The two parts can be taken separately in two distinct exam sessions, with Pellicioli's part as second. Questions attain to subjects discussed during the course and will concur to define the overall mark by weighting equally on both parts.
BIO/11 - MOLECULAR BIOLOGY - University credits: 0
Lectures: 80 hours
Educational website(s)
Wednesday 10.30-12.30 and Friday 10.30-11.30
Thursday 17-18 (by appointment)
office 2b