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Nicola Tirelli

Senior Researcher Tenured - Principal Investigator

Research Line

Polymers and Biomaterials


IIT Central Research Lab Genova


+39 010 71781 923
+39 010 71781 923
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Nicola was born in Rome, but grew up and studied in the town of Pisa. 

There, he graduated in Chemistry (1992) and later obtained a PhD in Industrial Chemistry (1996) at the local University, working on photosensitive  (photochromic) and non-linear optically active polymers under the supervision of Prof. Francesco Ciardelli.

During his PhD, he spent one year at the ETH Zurich, as a guest of the group of Macromolecular Chemistry (Dept. of Materials) then led by Prof. Ueli Suter. He stayed as a postdoc until 1997, then joining in the same department the group of Prof. Jeff Hubbell as an Oberassistent (position broadly analogous to Habilitant in Germany, or to Assistant Professor in the US), after a short spell at the EPF Lausanne. Nicola crossed the Channel in 2003, being appointed as Senior Lecturer at the School of Pharmacy of the Victoria University of Manchester (VUM); when in 2005 this amalgamated with the second university of Manchester (UMIST) to form the new University of Manchester, Nicola had just been promoted full Professor and chair of Polymers and Biomaterials. He was one of the last professors appointed in the VUM.

In 2010 he accepted a split position with the School of Materials, returning to the School of Pharmacy, then School of Health Sciences/Division of Pharmacy & Optometry.

In 2017 he has joined the IIT in Genova.

In Manchester, Nicola is currently director of the Centre of Doctoral Training in Regenerative Medicine and academic lead of the NorthWest Centre of Advanced Drug Delivery.


Nicola has published >140 research papers, and has an h-index of 37 (Google Scholar). He was editor of the journal Reactive & Functional Polymers (Elsevier) between 2006 and 2012.

Selected Publications


Selected recent publications:

E. Lallana, J.M. Rios de la Rosa, A. Tirella, M. Pelliccia, A. Gennari1, I.J. Stratford, S. Puri, M. Ashford, N. Tirelli “Chitosan/hyaluronic acid nanoparticles: rational design revisited for RNA delivery”, Molecular Pharmaceutics, (2017) in press

A. Gennari, C. Gujral, E. Hohn, F. Cellesi, N. Tirelli “Revisiting boronate/diol complexation as a double stimulus-responsive bioconjugation”, Bioconjugate Chemistry, 28 (2017), 1391-1402 DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.7b00080 

J.M. Rios de la Rosa, A. Tirella, A. Gennari, I.J. Stratford, N. Tirelli, “The CD44-mediated uptake of hyaluronic acid-based carriers in macrophages”, Advanced Healthcare Materials, 6 (2017) 1601012. DOI 10.1002/adhm.201601012    

J. Burke, R. Donno, S. Cartmell, N. Tirelli, “The effect of branching (star architecture) on poly(D,L-lactide) (PDLLA) degradation and drug delivery”, Biomacromolecules, 18 (2017), 728-739 DOI: 10.1021/acs.biomac.6b01524 

A. Gennari, M. Pelliccia, R. Donno, I. Kimber N. Tirelli “Mannosylation allows for synergic (CD44/C-type lectin) uptake of hyaluronic acid nanoparticles in dendritic cells, but only upon correct ligand presentation”, Advanced Healthcare Materials, 5 (2016) 966-976 DOI:10.1002/adhm.201500941

R. d’Arcy, A. Siani, E. Lallana, N. Tirelli “The influence of primary structure on responsiveness. Oxidative, thermal and thermo-oxidative responses in polysulfides”, Macromolecules, 48 (2015) 8108-8120. DOI:10.1021/acs.macromol.5b02007

D. Jeanmaire, G.A. Timco,A. Gennari,J.S.P. Walsh, K.J. Williams, R.E.P. Winpenny, N. Tirelli “Binary behaviour of an oxidation-responsive MRI nano contrast agent”, Chemical Communications, 51(6) (2015) 1074-1076. DOI: 10.1039/c4cc08024f.

 A. Siani, R.R. Khaw, O.W.G. Manley, F. Cellesi, R. Donno, N. Tirelli “Serum-containing media affect fibronectin localization, fibrillization, and myofibroblast marker expression”, Scientific Reports, 5 (2015) 9278. DOI: 10.1038/srep09278.



He received a Bessel award from the Humboldt foundation in 2004, was EPSRC Advanced Research Fellow 2005-2010 and visiting professor at the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Surfaces (Golm, Germany; 2004) and at the Institute of Biomaterials Science, Helmholtz Centre Geesthacht (Teltow, Germany; 2012). 


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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.