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Molecular Enzymology and Extremophiles


Our studies are focused on the understanding of the structure/function relationship of protein and enzymes and on the mechanism of the enzymatic hydrolysis and synthesis of glycosides. Our model systems are the enzymes from (hyper)thermophilic microorganisms, mainly Archaea, the extant organisms closest to the early forms of life on Earth.


Enzyme Discovery & Engineering

Discovery and engineering of hyperthermophilic carbohydrate active enzymes (CAZymes) to understand substrate specificity, reaction mechanism and application in green chemistry, agro-food and plant polysaccharide degradation.

Metagenomic Analysis

Metagenomic analysis of hydrothermal environments for the identification of hyperthermophilic microorganisms, application of their genes and enzymes in biotechnology and to trace the origin and evolution of life on Earth.

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Translational Recoding

Gene expression in Archaea (translational recoding) to understand the early mechanisms of transfer of genetic information.


Production of engineered glycosidases (glycosynthases), which synthesise oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates for green chemistry and biotechnology.

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Pharmacological Chaperons

Identification of pharmacological chaperones for rescuing the activity of carbohydrate active enzymes involved in human orphan diseases.

Current Funded Projects

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Industrial Biotechnology Innovation and Synthetic Biology Accelerator

As a continuum of IBISBA 1.0 and PREP-IBISBA, the creation of the Industrial Biotechnology infrastructure IBISBA ( is currently being developed in the project IBISBA-DIALS. All receive funding from the EU’s H2020 research and innovation programme of the European Commission in the framework of ESFRI infrastructures ( Our group is active in the identification and characterization of Carbohydrate Active Enzymes (CAZymes) and their engineering for the chemoenzymatic synthesis of oligosaccharides in high yields for green chemistry, pharmaceutical applications and bio-medicine. Metagenomics in geothermal environments for the identification of (hyper)thermophilic microorganisms and the exploitation of their enzymes in green chemistry, in the agro-food sector and for biofuels.

The project is funded under the call HORIZON-INFRA-2023-DEV-01 of the HORIZON-CSA action.



Joint Research Unit - IBISBA Italian Node

IBISBA-IT ( is the Italian Node of the European Distributed Research Infrastructure IBISBA in which it occupies a well-defined position within four specific areas: Synthetic Biology, Green Chemistry, Sustainable Bioenergy, and Functional Food, strengthening Italian scientific research in the field of industrial biotechnology, providing support to national and local governments and promoting training activities.

The project is formally recognized by the Italian Ministry of University and Research RU U.0018382 of the 25/11/2020


Bioindustry 4.0 

Advanced Digital Solutions for Biomanufacturing

Bioindustry 4.0 is a cutting-edge initiative aspiring to shape the development of smart, sustainable biomanufacturing processes.

By perfecting advanced technologies such as process sensor prototypes and computational methods, including artificial intelligence-driven digital twins, design support systems and federated learning, we aim to empower the bioindustry sector, helping to push back the boundaries of bioprocess design and operation.

Our overarching aim is to make the development of bioprocesses faster and cheaper, and biomanufacturing more reliable.



REconnecting PLAstics life cYcle

The use of plastics is unavoidable in our society due to their unique mechanical properties and low cost compared to other materials. Regrettably, the biodegradation of traditional plastic is extremely slow and occurs only rarely and only in specific niches: most of the plastic waste is burnt for heat or landfilled, representing a loss of resources and creating a cascade of environmental issues.

REPLAY aims at the upcycling of PET from post-consumer plastic waste through sustainable depolymerisation and fermentation, as a principle to foster the reconnection of fossil resources with the biogeochemical cycles of elements and materials. Bringing together three Italian universities, the project will implement the use of systems and synthetic biology, (bio)chemical and (bio)process engineering to enable yeasts to convert PET into organic acids, thanks to a virtuous “Design-Build-Test-Learn” cycle. Our group is involved in the discovery and optimization of novel PET hydrolysing enzymes (PHEs) to be used in enzymatic cocktails: production and characterization.

The project is funded under the call PRIN 2020 - Prot. 2020SBNHLH of the Italian Ministry of University and Research

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Italian Integrated Environmental Research Infrastructures System

ITINERIS coordinates a network of national nodes from 22 RIs (17 from the environmental domain, 3 from agri-food with strong link with the environment and 2 from the PSE domain, supporting services for the marine domain). The participating RIs are the Italian nodes of the ESFRI Landmarks ACTRIS, EMSO, Euro-Argo, ICOS and LIFEWATCH, from the ENV domain and ANAEE from the H&F domain and closely linked to the ENV domain; the Italian nodes of the ESFRI projects DANUBIUS, DISSCO, e-LTER, from the ENV domain, and EMPHASIS and EUIBISBA from the H&F domain and also relevant for ENV; the EU RIs ECORD, EUFAR, Eurofleets, JERICO and SIOS, all from the ENV domain; and the national RIs ATLAS, CeTRA, Laura Bassi, and SMINO, from the ENV domain, and Geosciences and LNS, both from the PSE domain, that in ITINERIS support services in the marine domain.


National Recovery and Resilience Plan – National Biodiversity Future Center


Microbial biodiversity of natural or anthropogenic niches for production of primary interest: food, drinks and novel bioactive molecules

This Task aims at characterize and take benefit from the biodiversity associated with specific natural or anthropogenic niches typical of Italian territory to promote and implement i) development of systems functionalized with proteins/enzymes aiming at identify urban pollutants and recovery residues and by-products from urban wastes; ii) production of bioactive molecules for the improvement of human health, crop production, and quality of food products; iii) production of new foods beneficial for human health with nutritional high added values.

In Italy, extreme environments are often embedded in urban territories, including, thermal baths, spas, and national parks, which represent natural niches rich in microbial biodiversity of great applicative interest by themselves or through their enzymes, but largely unknown and little exploited. Such natural resources can be used in the extreme conditions used to treat domestic and urban wastes, wastewater, and landfills enriched with all sorts of polluting agents. Our group is involved in the discovery of enzymes from microbial consortia populating extreme environments for the development of eco-sustainable mitigation approaches.

The project is Financed by the European Union – NextGenerationEU within the National Biodiversity Future Center project (NBFC, CN00000033,  CUP B83C22002930006).



Innovative technologies for the agri-food sector through the use of extremophilic enzymes for a circular economy.

The TELLUS project proposal aims to study, develop and demonstrate advanced green chemistry and biotechnology processes capable of transforming renewable raw materials, such as agroindustrial waste available on the italian territory in bioproducts, with functional properties comparable and/or improved compared to those existing on the market, with significant implications in strategic sectors for national economic development such as agriculture (e.g. compostable mulching films, biomaterials for agriculture, biostimulants) and packaging. Our group is involved in the discovery of CAZymes hyperstable from (meta)genomes and local isolates and to set up of a pilot process for the conversion of polysachcarides through enzymatic cocktails.

The project is funded under the call Fondo per la Crescita Sostenibile - Accordi per l'innovazione di cui al D.M. 31 Dicembre 2021 e DD 18 Marzo 2022 of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development



Horizon Europe: ITN-Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions

Archaea have unique cellular characteristics that allow them to thrive in extreme environments, for example at high pressures, salt concentrations or temperatures. Although their biochemical and metabolic properties show great potential for a wide range of biotechnological applications, our lack of knowledge about the structure and function of the archaeal cell surface and its role in formation of communities, such as biofilms, is currently hampering the large- scale industrial use of these organisms. ARCTECH proposes the first training initiative on archaea, aiming to foster the next generation of European visionaries in ‘fundamental archaeal research and their application in biotechnology’. Our group aims to identify the genes of putative Cazymes, namely poly-, oligosaccharides and EPS-degrading enzymes, in metagenomes of extreme environments populated by archaea.

The project, proposal number 01120407, is funded under the call HORIZON-MSCA-2022-DN-01



Carbohydrate-Active enZYmes database

The Living Encyclopedia of Carbohydrate-Active Enzymes.

Industrial Biotechnology Innovation and Synthetic Biology Accelerator

European Strategic Forum on Research Infrastructure

Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Italian Space Agency

Italian Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Società Italiana di Astrobiologia - Italian Society of Astrobiology

Microbial Life Under Extreme Conditions

Federation of European Microbiological Societies

International Congress on Extremophiles

Carbohydrate Bioengineering Meeting

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