Roberto Burioni
La formidabile impresa (The Formidable Endeavour)
An essay, Rizzoli, March 2022, 132 pages

For decades, mRNA research has seemed like a waste of time and resources. Today, that useless science has propelled us into a future of therapies that we thought were science fiction, which instead are within reach.

A researcher who fled Hungary is demoted by the prestigious American university where she works because of her bad character and because the studies to which she has devoted her life seem to lead to a dead end. She has an encounter at the photocopier with a scientist who spends all his free time taking care of stray cats. Years and years of studies are crowned by a scientific article that goes completely unnoticed. Biotechnology companies suspended in limbo between innovation and failure, led by visionary geniuses who are little less than adventurers or by scientists who since childhood have dreamed of defeating cancer. Then, all of a sudden, the worst pandemic of the last hundred years hits. It is in this scenario and with these protagonists that the “formidable endeavour” that gives the title to the new book by Roberto Burioni takes place: the use of an unstable and difficult to handle molecule – the messenger RNA that in our cells carries the DNA instructions to produce a protein – to obtain in record time extremely effective vaccines against COVID-19 and, in a future that has already begun, revolutionize the treatment and prevention of diseases such as AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cancer. The mRNA revolution is yet another demonstration of the importance for human progress of “useless science”, pure research driven only by curiosity and thirst for knowledge. So this book becomes a passionate hymn to the science that saves (and fills) our lives – with a gallery of out-of-the-ordinary characters, compelling stories, brilliant ideas, noble intentions and human baseness.

“The same science that saved us from COVID-19 will help us defeat diseases that are incurable today.” Anthony Fauci

Roberto Burioni

Roberto Burioni, born in Pesaro, is a medical doctor: after a Ph.D in Microbiological Sciences, he specialized in Clinical Immunology. Since 2004 he is Professor of Microbiology and Virology at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan, where he is in charge of an immunological research laboratory. He is the author of numerous scientific works published by the most respected international journals and he is regularly invited to present the results of his research to the most important medical-scientific congresses around the world. In 2018, with some colleagues, he created Medical Facts, a web portal that posts news and comments on a variety of health issues. He published Il vaccino non è un’opinione. Le vaccinazioni spiegate a chi proprio non le vuole capire (2016), La congiura dei somari. Perché la scienza non può essere democratica (2017), Balle mortali (2018), Omeopatia. Bugie, leggende e verità (2019), Virus. La grande sfida (2020) and La formidabile impresa (2022).




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