Valentina Ferlito


Valentina Ferlito

Host Institution

Brainwave Discovery Ltd.
Contact details

Brainwave Discovery Ltd.

Hugh Robson Building, room 306
10-15 George Square, EH8 9XD, Edinburgh, UK














Background and previous research experience

I graduated with a MSc in Molecular and Cellular Biology on July 2011 (Università di Catania) but my interest in research started when I was just a child thanks to a talented science professor at school.  I could really appreciate the world of scientific research during my BSc, when I joined the Biochemystry Lab of Prof. Lazzarino (Università di Catania). During 6 month I learned HPLC analysis applied to nucleotide metabolites. In addition, during my studies, I applied to the grants, and spent six months at “Universitat de Barcelona”. In the Organic Synthesis lab of Prof. Camps and Prof. Muñoz-Torrero. My project  involved the organic synthesis of advanced precursors for the preparation of novel dual binding site acetyl cholinesterase inhibitors, of interest for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. During my MScI joined the Organic Chemistry lab of Prof. Caccamese (Università di Catania); during 16 months I developed my MSc Thesis that resulted in a published work, together with the research group of Prof D. Flockhart (Indiana University).We optimized the isolation of pure naringenin enantiomers by chiral HPLC and tested the ability of (R)-,(S)- and racemic naringenin to inhibit several important drug-metabolizing CYP450 isoforms. I am also deeply interested in Molecular Biology and Genetics so, after the completion of my studies, I collaborated with a Diagnostic Molecular Biology Lab. directed by Doc. Poli (Pediatric Oncohaematology department, University General Hospital, Catania), learning more about DNA extraction techniques, PCR, and DNA electrophoresis, working on the evaluation of Minimal Residual Disease and molecular Diagnosis in Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia cases.

Main areas of interest

Apart from what is already detailed in the previous field, I’m deeply  interested in the general molecular cell biology of neurons, neurodegeneration processes, neurodegenerative cell death mechanism, and molecular machines  involved in neural plasticity, cognition and nervous system development, particularly how these mechanisms are conserved between Drosophila and humans, in fact, for my PhD, I’m  working with humanized fly models for human CNS disorders. I’m also interested in the scientific validation of these models, particularly on Alzheimer and ALS disease.

FLiACT project

Brainwave-Discovery focused on developing and selling assays for human CNS disorders using fly models. These include Alzheimer’s disease models. The Hassan group in Leuven have been working on the molecular interactions between the Wnt/PCP pathway and APP(L) in the developing brain. Supervised by J. Douglas Armstrong and Bassem Hassan I will explore this possible mechanism for AD in humanized fly strains. In the first instance I will focus on integrating the Brainwave AD humanized genes into the Wnt/PCP mutant strains developed by the Hassan group and screening for interactions between them. We may also look to engineer additional human Alzheimer disease gene mutations into Drosophila. In the next phase I will work on phenotyping these strains with the behavioural analysis group in Mainz and Barcelona to investigate new ways to analyze these new models in detail and identify features that progress with age (i.e. as the neurons degenerate). The results will be used to  identify potential biomarkers against which we can screen new drugs. Finally, and time depending, I will look to test some existing pharmaceutical compounds on these new models as a validation of the approach. As a control I can use the existing Drosophila neurodegeneration model that are currently used by the community. Therefore while I will focus my research efforts on the development and validation of new biomedical models I will be closely linked with complementary groups researching the basic biology including those developing computational/theoretical models.