Rino Rappuoli

Molecular biology

Also Known As

Rino Rappuoli, PhD, is Chief Scientist and Head External R&D at GSK Vaccines, based in Siena, Italy and Professor of Vaccines Research at Imperial College, London, UK. Prior positions were head of Vaccine R&D at Novartis, CSO of Chiron Corporation, and head for R&D at Sclavo. He earned his PhD in Biological Sciences at the University of Siena and has served as a visiting scientist at Rockefeller University in New York and Harvard Medical School in Boston. He was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and as Foreign Member to the Royal Society of London. He was awarded the Gold Medal by the Italian President for contributions to public healthcare in 2005. In 2009, he received the Albert B Sabin Gold Medal for his work in the field of reverse vaccinology and in 2010 the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute of Human Virology in Maryland. In 2013 he was nominated third most influential person worldwide in the field of vaccines (Terrapin). In 2017 he received the Canada Gairdner International Award and the European Inventor Award for Lifetime Achievement. He has published more than 650 works in peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Rappuoli introduced several novel scientific concepts, the names of which have become well known. Examples are the concept that bacterial toxins can be detoxified by manipulation of their genes (genetic detoxification, 1987), the concept that microbes are better studied in the context of the cells they interact with instead of artificial laboratory conditions (cellular microbiology, 1996), the use of genomes to develop new vaccines (reverse vaccinology, 2000), the observation that the genome of a species (pangenome, 2005) is larger than the genome of an organism of the same species. Several molecules he worked with became part of licensed vaccines. He characterized a molecule, CRM197, that today is the most widely used carrier for vaccines against H. influenzae, N. meningitidis and pneumococcus vaccines, and is used to vaccinate most children around the globe. He then developed a vaccine against pertussis by engineering B. pertussis to produce a non-toxic pertussis toxin antigen. This was the first rationally designed molecule approved for human use. Later, he developed the first conjugate vaccine against meningococcus C that eliminated the disease in the UK in 2000. In 1997, he obtained regulatory approval for MF59, the first vaccine adjuvant approved for human use after the approval of aluminium salts in the 1920s. MF59 is now being used in many other experimental vaccines, the most advanced of which is a vaccine against pandemic influenza. He pioneered the use of genomic information for vaccine development (reverse vaccinology). Its application led to the licensure of the first meningococcus B vaccine in Europe in 2013 and in the USA in 2015. The vaccine was introduced for routine immunization for all new-borns in the UK since September 2015, and the first report showed an effectiveness of 83%.

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