Ilaria Capua - Biography#

Dr. Ilaria Capua is an Italian virologist expert in the study of influenza viruses, mostly avian flu and zoonotic diseases, an advocate of open science, and promoter of the "One Health" concept. While working at the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie at Legnaro, Padova, Italy, where she chaired the Italian National Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza and Newcastle Disease, Dr. Capua's team developed a new strategy to monitor outbreaks of avian flu in densely populated livestocks areas. Such strategy, recommended by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), is known as DIVA (differentiating infected from vaccinated animals) and consists of the use of a differential test that allows to distinguish whether antibodies found in animals are the result of an infection or of vaccination. In 2006, when her team sequenced the genome of the first H5N1 virus strain isolated in Africa, she deposited it in GenBank, an open database instead of submitting it to a password-protected database, to which only fifteen research centers worldwide had access, as suggested by the WHO office in Geneve. Such a decision was the cause of big controversy, especially when she made it public and ecouraged other researchers on avian flu to deposit also the genomic sequences in publicly accessible databases. The same year, Capua and more than 70 researchers proposed, in a letter published in Nature, to create a global consortium (the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data, GISAID) to share avian flu viruses genetic sequences and epidemiological data. The GISAID platform, launched in 2008, made it possible real-time data sharing of hCoV-19, the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic.

From 2013 to 2016, she was a member of the Italian Parliament. Afterwards she moved to the United States to direct the "One Health" Center of Excellence at the Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences of the University of Florida, at Gainesville, Florida.

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