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Angelo Bifone

Visiting scientist
Director MRI Research Line


Corso Bettini, 31
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Current position

2016 to date: Director MRI Research Line and Tenured Senior Scientist of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia.


After completing my undergraduate studies in Physics at the University of Rome, I earned a PhD in Physics from the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa and a Master in Business Administration from Alma Graduate School, University of Bologna.

My career includes stints in academia and in industry R&D. I worked as a PostDoc at the University of Berkeley (California) and at the University of Leiden (The Netherlands). From 1996 to 2001 I was  a Lecturer at the Institute of Cancer Research (UK), where I obtained the status of Teacher of the University of London. For 9 years I headed the Neuroimaging Department of the Medicines Research Center of Glaxo Smith-Kline, a large research-based pharmaceutical company, in Verona, Italy. In 2010 I joined the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, where I took roles of increasing responsibility.

Previous positions

2013-2016: Director of the Center for Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems, IIT@UniTn, Rovereto, Italy

2010-2013: Director of the Center for Nanotechnology Innovation, IIT@NEST, Pisa, Italy

2001-2010: Director of the Department of Neuroimaging, Glaxo Smith-Kline Research Center, Verona, Italy

1996-2001: Lecturer in Magnetic Resonance, Instiute of Cancer Research, University of London, UK.

1994-1996: Postdoctoral Fellow, Chemistry Department, University of Leiden, The Netherlands.


1990: Master Degree ("Laurea") in Physics, University of Rome "La Sapienza", Italy.

1991-1994: PhD in Physics, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy (supervisor Prof. Franco Bassani).
My doctoral work was performed at the University of California at Berkeley, USA, under the supervision of Prof. Alex Pines.

2004-2005: Master in Business Administration (MBA), Alma Graduate School, University of Bologna, Italy.


I have authored and co-authored over 110 papers in international journals (including PNAS, Neuron, Nature Neuroscience, Physical Review Letters and top-tier specialist journals in the area of biomedical imaging), collecting ca. 4800 citations (Scholar).
h-index: 40 (Scholar Google), 35 (Scopus).
I have also authored 6 patents, several book chapters and over 200 asbtracts in the proceedings of international conferences.


In 2004 I was awarded the Sapio Prize for Italian Research.

2002-2005: Honorary Lectureship, University of London, The Institute of Cancer Research

2012: Abilitazione Scientifica Nazionale, Full Professor (I Fascia) of Applied Physics



Research interests:

My research activity is focused primarily on the development of biomedical imaging techniques, with an emphasis on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and its application to the neurosciences. A physicist by training, I have strived throughout my scientific career to improve sensitivity, resolution and specificity of MRI, and to push the boundaries of this technique as a diagnostic and research tool to study brain structure and function.

My first research efforts as an independent scientist were aimed at the development of high-sensitivity MR tracers (dubbed hyperpolarized agents) to map perfusion in healthy tissues and tumors. While my initial interest lay in the chemico-physical properties of MR imaging probes, I became increasingly involved in their application to functional MRI (fMRI), a method to map hemodynamic responses in the brain as a surrogate for changes in the underlying neuronal activity. Normally, functional MRI relies on an endogenous contrast mechanism, the BOLD effect, which results in very small MR signal changes (only a few percent, at best). The use of exogenous agents can dramatically increase the sensitivity of fMRI, thus improving spatial resolution and making it possible to resolve the brain functional architecture at a finer level. Over the last 12 years, my group has substantially advanced fMRI in models of human neurological and psychiatric disease, with the goal to identify imaging endophenotypes (i.e., biological markers of disease traits) and functional markers of response to pharmacological treatment. A particularly distinctive aspect of my research has been the study of brain functional connectivity and its pharmacological modulation, an area that my group has pioneered. In an industry R&D environment, we have extensively applied these methods to the drug discovery process for psychiatric and neurological indications, providing a powerful translational tool to accelerate progression of novel therapeutic agents towards the clinic.

My current pursuit is the combination of MR Imaging, theoretical modeling and transgenic technology to elucidate the neurophysiological basis of functional conenctivity and its derangements in neurological and psychiatric disease. My goal is to develop a translational platform to map and characterize the architecture of functional connectivity, to identify its neurochemical determinants, and to establish causal relations between the activation/inhibition of specific connectivity pathways and behavior.

In parallel, I cultivate my long-term interest in novel agents for imaging. Specifically, I am leading a Project focusing on Nitrogen-Vacancy centers in nanostructured diamond as a means to hyperpolarize nuclear spins for the production of hyperpolarized agents for imaging of cells and tissues in living organisms. 




In 2004 I was awarded the Sapio Prize for Italian Research.

2002-2005: Honorary Lectureship, University of London, The Institute of Cancer Research

2012: Abilitazione Scientifica Nazionale, Full Professor (I Fascia) of Applied Physics



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I numeri di IIT

L’Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) è una fondazione di diritto privato - cfr. determinazione Corte dei Conti 23/2015 “IIT è una fondazione da inquadrare fra gli organismi di diritto pubblico con la scelta di un modello di organizzazione di diritto privato per rispondere all’esigenza di assicurare procedure più snelle nella selezione non solo nell’ambito nazionale dei collaboratori, scienziati e ricercatori ”.

IIT è sotto la vigilanza del Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca e del Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze ed è stato istituito con la Legge 326/2003. La Fondazione ha l'obiettivo di promuovere l'eccellenza nella ricerca di base e in quella applicata e di favorire lo sviluppo del sistema economico nazionale. La costruzione dei laboratori iniziata nel 2006 si è conclusa nel 2009.

Lo staff complessivo di IIT conta circa 1440 persone. L’area scientifica è rappresentata da circa l’85% del personale. Il 45% dei ricercatori proviene dall’estero: di questi, il 29% è costituito da stranieri provenienti da oltre 50 Paesi e il 16% da italiani rientrati. Oggi il personale scientifico è composto da circa 60 principal investigators, circa 110 ricercatori e tecnologi di staff, circa 350 post doc, circa 500 studenti di dottorato e borsisti, circa 130 tecnici. Oltre 330 posti su 1400 creati su fondi esterni. Età media 34 anni. 41% donne / 59 % uomini.

Nel 2015 IIT ha ricevuto finanziamenti pubblici per circa 96 milioni di euro (80% del budget), conseguendo fondi esterni per 22 milioni di euro (20% budget) provenienti da 18 progetti europei17 finanziamenti da istituzioni nazionali e internazionali, circa 60 progetti industriali

La produzione di IIT ad oggi vanta circa 6990 pubblicazioni, oltre 130 finanziamenti Europei e 11 ERC, più di 350 domande di brevetto attive, oltre 12 start up costituite e altrettante in fase di lancio. Dal 2009 l’attività scientifica è stata ulteriormente rafforzata con la creazione di dieci centri di ricerca nel territorio nazionale (a Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) e internazionale (MIT ed Harvard negli USA) che, unitamente al Laboratorio Centrale di Genova, sviluppano i programmi di ricerca del piano scientifico 2015-2017.

IIT: the numbers

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) is a public research institute that adopts the organizational model of a private law foundation. IIT is overseen by Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca and Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze (the Italian Ministries of Education, Economy and Finance).  The Institute was set up according to Italian law 326/2003 with the objective of promoting excellence in basic and applied research andfostering Italy’s economic development. Construction of the Laboratories started in 2006 and finished in 2009.

IIT has an overall staff of about 1,440 people. The scientific staff covers about 85% of the total. Out of 45% of researchers coming from abroad 29% are foreigners coming from more than 50 countries and 16% are returned Italians. The scientific staff currently consists of approximately 60 Principal Investigators110 researchers and technologists350 post-docs and 500 PhD students and grant holders and 130 technicians. External funding has allowed the creation of more than 330 positions . The average age is 34 and the gender balance proportion  is 41% female against 59% male.

In 2015 IIT received 96 million euros in public funding (accounting for 80% of its budget) and obtained 22 million euros in external funding (accounting for 20% of its budget). External funding comes from 18 European Projects, other 17 national and international competitive projects and approximately 60 industrial projects.

So far IIT accounts for: about 6990 publications, more than 130 European grants and 11 ERC grants, more than 350 patents or patent applications12 up start-ups and as many  which are about to be launched. The Institute’s scientific activity has been further strengthened since 2009 with the establishment of 11 research nodes throughout Italy (Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) and abroad (MIT and Harvard University, USA), which, along with the Genoa-based Central Lab, implement the research programs included in the 2015-2017 Strategic Plan.