PhD Course in Molecular Medicine

Project location: Italy, Milan
Project start date: October 2007 - Project end date: October 2008
Project number: 2004-10
Beneficiary: European School of Medicine

September 2008 update:

 Please click on this link to open the 2007 project report.


In the biomedical field many areas remain un-illuminated by the light of science: many illnesses including several types of cancer have not yielded to our attempts to control them, while the basic mechanisms of other diseases remain unknown.
Modern technology is providing ever more sophisticated tools that are enabling us to explore these un-illuminated corners, but at the same time are giving rise to new ethical dilemmas that must be faced by scientists and by society as a whole.

For these reasons Umberto Veronesi Foundation believes that there is a strong need to encourage the innovative and idealistic spirit of free scientific thought in the younger generation.

At the most fundamental level the aim of the foundation is to promote a wider appreciation of the ethical values intrinsic to science - the most advanced and sublime creation of the human intellect.



SEMM (European School of Molecular Medicine) is a private foundation which has as objective, among others, to organize training plans aimed to create highly specialized expertise in emerging and rapidly growing scientific and technological areas (bio-medicine, computer science, material science).


The sequencing of the human genome has opened up the Post-Genomics era of bio-medicine and will lead to a monumental revolution in understanding human diseases and their treatment. In fact as the molecular foundations of diseases become clearer, we may be able to prevent them or design accurate, individualized treatments for them. Genetic tests will routinely predict individual susceptibility to disease. Diagnoses of many conditions will be much more thorough and specific than now. New drugs, derived from a detailed molecular understanding of common illnesses will target molecules logically. Drugs like those for cancer will routinely be matched to a patient's likely response. Decades from now, many potential diseases may be cured at the molecular level before they arise. All these changes aren't likely to come quickly. It will take a long time to understand the human genome. But access to genome sequence will increasingly shape the practice of health care over the coming decades, as well as shed light on many of the mysteries of biology.

Italy is lagging behind in the sectors of Post-Genomic Research and Molecular Medicine, as confirmed by the low investments as well as the low number of scientific publications, compared to other industrialized countries. If this is not rectified, the country risks being culturally and financially dependent on other more advanced countries (US, Canada, France, UK, Germany).


SEMM intends to contribute to make Italy competitive in the field of molecular medicine and, based on the model of the other industrialized countries, intends to face the scientific and technological emergencies, through the promotion of a high-level training.

SEMM has already organized in agreement and in collaboration with the national university, a first "PhD in Molecular Medicine"


The following are the main characteristics of the course:

1) The international dimension

The course is addressed to motivated and brilliant students of all nationalities. Teachers of the school are very high-profile international scientists.

The official language of the course is English.

2) The importance of doing

The current level of complexity of experimental protocols, technologies and laboratory equipment is such that new training plans will necessarily have to guarantee the firm attendance of PhD students in research laboratories, and to consider this activity as one of the most qualifying aspects of training.

3) The multidisciplinary nature, and the teaching of new subjects not included in the traditional curricula.

Training plans will include knowledge of new disciplines. Students will learn not only of medicine or genetics, but also of cellular biology, structural biology, proteomics and computer science.

4) Teaching the managerial aspects of science.

The school also intends to provide managerial skills at two levels, one related to the financial management of science, and the other focusing on entrepreneurial aspects.

5) Continuous liaison with the employment market.

This is a fundamental aspect if one wants investment in training both by the school and the students to be translated into suitable job placements in the working world. SEMM is therefore trying and organize forms of collaboration and stable working relationships with the employment market, in synergy with Regional Bodies, Industrial Associations, Pharmaceutical and Biotech Companies.

The training activities of the PhD students will be held at the following research centers of Milan:

FIRC Istitute of Molecular Oncology (IFOM)

European Institute of Oncology (EIO)

The PhD course in Molecular Medicine is one of the SEMM activity and its aims is to provide high level expertise and qualifications for performing research activities in the field of Post-genomics and Molecular Medicine, particularly as regards Molecular Oncology and Genetic Diseases.

The final aim of the PhD is to train a scientific elite that will find its natural position at management level in academic research centres, in clinical centres of excellence, in biotechnological industries and in other structures of the biomedical sector.

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