R.I.P. Renato Dulbecco

Renato Dulbecco in 1966
Renato Dulbecco in 1966

Italian biologist, doctor and geneticist Renato Dulbecco died of a heart attack.

Renato Dulbecco was born on February 22, 1914 in Catanzaro, Italy. At the age of 16 he graduated at high school, went to the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Turin and thanks to the brilliant results obtained, during his second year he was admitted as an intern at the Institute of Anatomy under Professor Giuseppe Levi. There Dulbecco met two other Italian scientists: Salvador Luria and Rita Levi Montalcini. He graduated in 1936.

During World War II, Renato Dulbecco served for some time in the Italian army as a medical officer but later he joined the resistance.

After the war, Renato Dulbecco returned to the University of Turin to study physics graduating in just two years. A new encounter with Salvador Luria led him to move to Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A. to become a researcher.

In 1949, Renato Dulbecco moved to Caltech, where over the years he worked with Howard Termin: with him and David Baltimore in 1975 he shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries concerning the interaction between tumour viruses and the genetic material of the cell. At the Nobel ceremony, Dulbecco talked against smoking, a major cause of cancer.

During those years, Renato Dulbecco also worked at the Salk Institute then at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. In 1986, he was one of the scientists who launched the Human Genome Project, which aimed to identify all the genes in human cells and their role. This research was also useful to improve the understanding of cancer development, essential to be able to defeat it.

Renato Dulbecco was an extraordinary scientist and to him we owe a good part of today’s knowledge about cancer. Certainly many of the future treatments that may be created thanks to the coming developments in biotechnology will be based on knowledge obtained also thanks to him.

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