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Growth Factors Group

Ermanno Gherardi, PI


Hugo de Joge


Phone: (+39) 0382 986046

Lab members

Prof. Ermanno Gherardi, PI, Full professor

Dr. Luisa Iamele

Dr. Hugo de Jonge

Alain Patrick Peleu Ngate (PhD student)

Dr. Ida Freda, Post-doc

Emilia Uslenghi, Research fellow


Our laboratory is focussing on the Hepatocyte Growth Factor/Scatter Factor (HGF/SF) and its tyrosine kinase receptor c-MET as well as other growth factors structurally related to plasminogen. HGF/SF and c-MET are both large and complex multidomain proteins crucial for organ formation during embryogenesis, adult life tissue homeostasis, and regulate inflammation and immunity. Moreover, both are important drivers of tumour growth and metastasis.

The potential application in regenerative medicine for treatment of several chronic and acute diseases affecting liver, lung, heart, and many other organs including the nervous system, and the urgent need for potent c-MET inhibitors in oncology is crucially dependent on a detailed understanding of ligand-induced receptor activation. Using a combination of structural biology and protein engineering, we have obtained a molecular understanding of ligand binding and receptor activation. This formed the basis for the structure-based drug development of potent small HGF/SF mimics and agonistic monoclonal antibodies. The structural information also contributed to the development of small molecule inhibitors targeting the receptor binding site in the first kringle domain, and the development of an inhibitory antibody fragment.

Currently we are extending the use of our monoclonal antibodies and antibody fragments to develop novel CAR-T technology, improve the targeting of MET-overexpressing tumours with nanoparticles, and develop intraoperative NIRF tumour markers.

Some of the technologies our laboratory employs are:

  • protein engineering - protein crystallography and x-ray diffraction
  • phage-display and monoclonal antibody technology - small angle x-ray scattering
  • cryo-electron microscopy
  • cell-based assays and screening
  • Surface Plasmon Resonance (Biacore T200)

We have ongoing collaborations with groups in Italy, France, the Netherlands, US, Hong Kong, and are working with Boehringer Ingelheim Germany on regenerative applications.