Giampietro Schiavo gained his degree in Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technology from the University of Padua (Italy) in 1988, followed in 1992 by a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences under the supervision of Prof. Cesare Montecucco at the same University. From the beginning of his scientific training, he demonstrated a keen interest in addressing the importance of bacterial toxins in human pathogenesis. Working in a multidisciplinary team, he learned the foundation of interdisciplinary research and the basis for translating basic discoveries into medical outcomes. During his studies, he performed functional analyses on how several bacterial toxins, such as diphtheria, pertussis and anthrax toxins, gain access to cells and drive pathogenesis. However, his main focus was understanding the mechanism of action of clostridial neurotoxins. He demonstrated that the inhibition of synaptic activity caused by tetanus and botulinum neurotoxins is due to a specific protease activity directed against synaptic proteins playing fundamental roles in neurotransmitter release. This discovery was instrumental for the field of SNARE biology.
Sponsored by an EMBO Fellowship, he then moved to the laboratory of Prof. J. Rothman at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Here he demonstrated, novel interactions between the synaptic calcium sensor synaptotagmin, SNAREs and phosphoinositides, contributing to a better understanding of the mechanism controlling membrane fusion at synaptic terminals.
In 1997, he established his laboratory at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London. His high-collaborative research program, which focuses on the analysis of axonal transport in health and disease has yielded important results on the role of mutations of motor proteins in neurodegeneration, regulation of neurotrophin signaling and the mechanism of uptake and retrograde transport botulinum and tetanus neurotoxins to cite a few.