Barbara Gatto



Department of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences, University of Padova
via F. Marzolo 5, 35131 Padova - Italy
Associate Professor of CHIM/08
Fax +39-049-827-5366


  Short CV


1989-1993:     Ph.D. Degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences  at the Departments of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Padova, Padova, Italy and (1991-1992) at the Department of Biological Chemistry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA (Advisors: Prof. Manlio Palumbo – Italy, Prof. Leroy F. Liu – USA)

1989:   Laurea Magna cum laude in Chimica e Tecnologie Farmaceutiche, Universita' degli Studi di Padova, Padova, Italy. Thesis Title: "Interaction between Nucleic Acids and new Potential Anticancer Drugs Derived from 1,4—diammino-9,10-anthracenedione" (Advisor: Prof. Manlio Palumbo)


Professional Position

2006-present : Associate Professor at the Department of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Padova, Padova, Italy

1997-2005:     Ricercatore Universitario at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Padova, Padova, Italy

1992-1995:     Post-doctoral research fellow at the Department of Pharmacology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Piscataway, NJ, USA (Advisor: Prof. Leroy F. Liu)



  Scientific Activities

The aims of the research developed in the laboratory can be summarized as follows:

¬   elucidation of the molecular mechanism of action of drugs interacting with nucleic acids, with established or potential therapeutic activity,
¬   molecular basis of receptor-ligand recognition,
¬   rational drug design and structure-activity relationship studies
¬   discovery of DNA/RNA aptamers able to bind and inhibit targets of pharmaceutical interest through combinatorial methods (SELEX). 


The ongoing research programs focus on the following two lines:

1.  the design and study of the mechanism of action of known or novel drugs targeted at nucleic acids, alone or in complex with specific proteins, with potential applications in antitumor, antibacterial or antiviral chemotherapy: our aim is to design and investigate the mechanism of action of novel synthetic ligands targeted at specific sequences and/or structural contexts in DNA/RNA chains, in particular those relevant for therapeutic treatment (TAR-RNA, cTAR, PBS, PPT of the HIV genome, quadruplex DNA of the human telomeric sequence or of oncogenes).  We characterize the physico-chemical parameters of DNA/RNA recognition of established or potential drugs and elucidate the mechanism of action of the new compounds in terms of recognition of  specific nucleic acid sequences and interference with the activity of essential helix-tracking enzymes. 

2.  the development of nucleic acids as drugs (aptamers) employing the technique known as SELEX, or Systematic Evolution of Ligands by Exponential enrichment, a methodology evolved from the unique insight that nucleic acids have sufficient capacity for forming a variety of two- and three-dimensional structures and sufficient chemical versatility available within their monomers to act as ligands with virtually any compound. This powerful technique allows the screening of large combinatorial library of nucleic acids with particular recognition properties.

  Technical expertise

My main expertise concerns the evaluation of the affinity between small molecule compounds and nucleic acids of viral and oncological interest. My main research interest is the study of the interaction of small molecule drugs with nucleic acids alone and in the context of protein complexes, namely:

1.         The evaluation of the binding of the small molecule to nucleic acids, such as the characterization of the physico-chemical properties of the chosen molecules in acqueous solution, in order to evaluate the best conditions for spectroscopic and electrophoretic assays. The evaluation of the affinity of the compounds for the nuclei acids to determine binding affinity and selectivity by spectroscopic, electrophoretic and microcalorimetric methods

2.         The evaluation of the effect(s) of the compounds on the complex formed by the nucleic acids and their protein targets by spectroscopic, electrophoretic and microcalorimetric methods 

  Positions available

Please enquire by e-mail


For an updated list of publication please go to: Barbara Gatto@ORCID

  Research projects and Funds

Ongoing, Pending, and Recently Completed Research Support

Grant Progetti di Grande Rilevanza Italy-US – Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale (MAECI): 2014-2015

Grant MIUR PRIN 2010: “Bloccare la replicazione di HIV-1 attraverso un approccio rivolto verso diversi bersagli molecolari      

Grant MIUR PRIN 2008: progettazione, sintesi e attività biologica di agenti anti-hiv che interagiscono con target virali e cellulari innovativi (in, hat, tat/tar, cdk9, rnasi h, dimerizzazione dell'rt, ddx3, cxcr4 e ccr5)

Grant University of Padova: Progetti di Ricerca di ateneo (PRAT) 2008 “Nuovi biopolimeri aptamerici come sistemi per la coniugazione selettiva e il rilascio controllato di proteine ricombinanti”

Grant MIUR PRIN 2006: sviluppo di derivati chinolonici ed di altri eterocicli azotati come agenti anti-hiv: progettazione, sintesi, studio delle interazioni con nuovi target (in, rnasi h, tat/tar) e modulazione della farmaco-resistenza (nnrti)

Grant MIUR PRIN 2004: sviluppo di farmaci per la terapia delle infezioni da hiv/aids. ottimizzazione di leads specifici per: nuovi targets (tat, in), modulazione della farmaco-resistenza (nnrtis, pris) ed attivita' microbicida