Our team

Our team focuses on designing in vivo genetic tools to investigate the mechanism whereby cancer cells evade the immune system and resist to therapy.


Mario Leonardo Squadrito, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Mario Leonardo Squadrito graduated in 2008 at the University of L’Aquila. In 2012, he obtained a PhD degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the San Raffaele University (Milan, IT) and the Open University (UK); in the course of his PhD studies, he identified and characterized of a new microRNA, miR-511-3p, highly expressed in tumor-associated macrophages. In 2012, he joined the EPFL (Lausanne, CH) where he identified a mechanism whereby miRNAs are sorted to microvesicles and trasfer to acceptor cells. He also designed new strategies to genetically reprogram TAMs to activate immune functions. He also invented a platform to exploit circulating microvesicles as a source of tumor antigens for innovative tumor vaccines. Since 2024, he has been appointed Group Leader at the San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy, Milan, Italy. 

Chiara Bresesti

Chiara Bresesti, M.Sc.

PhD Student

Chiara Bresesti earned her Bachelor’s degree in Medical Biotechnology in 2017 from Università degli Studi di Milano, with an experimental thesis aimed at characterizing a novel pathogenic variant of LH/CH Receptor. In 2020, she completed a double degree program earning a Master’s Degree in Medical Biotechnology (Università degli studi Milano-Bicocca) and Genetics (Université de Paris).  During her Master Thesis she characterized the structure of a lncRNA involved in melanoma aggressiveness, and its effect on the tumor microenvironment. Chiara is currently enrolled in the PhD course in Molecular Medicine of Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, curriculum Basic and Applied Immunology and Oncology.

Marco Notaro, M.Sc.

PhD Student

Marco Notaro graduated with an MSc in Industrial Biotechnology (2019) from the university of Milano-Bicocca. For his Master thesis, he worked on the characterization of the function of Rap1 in the DNA damage response in yeast. After graduation, Marco worked in the industrial sector for about a year, developing tailor-made rabbit monoclonal antibody. In December 2020, he started his PhD, curriculum Gene and Cell Therapy at San Raffaele university, were is currently working on the development of advanced lentiviral vector-based tumor vaccination.


Giovanna Giacca, MD

PhD Student

Giovanna Giacca has graduted in the International MD Program of Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan. During her studies, Giovanna participated in several internships involving cardiac regeneration by miRNA stimulation (2017, ICGEB), the interactions retrovirus-host in gene transfer  (2019, Tiget) and the immune system reconstitution of CAR-T-treated patients (2020, Ospedale San Raffaele). Giovanna joined the Cancer Gene Therapy Unit in 2021 for her Thesis internship. She is currently enrolled in the PhD course in Gene and Cell Therapy of the University Vita-Salute San Raffaele.

CarlMirko Mercado

Carl Mirko Mercado, M.Sc.

research assistant

Carl Mirko Mercado obtained his Master Degree in Medical Biotechnology at the University of Milano-Bicocca. During his Master Thesis intership he investigated the role of SETBP1 in the onset of hematological malignancies through the characterization of a transgenic mouse model that leads to SETBP1 overexpression in all hematopoietic cells.

In July 2022, Mirko started a collaboration with San Raffaele Hospital as research assistant in the Cancer Gene Therapy Unit.

Maristella Borghetti

Maristella Borghetti

Master student

Maristella Borghetti is currently enrolled in the Medical Biotechnology Master program of Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan. During her bachelor’s degree, she worked on the characterization of microRNAs as potential blood-based biomarkers for predicting Tocilizumab response therapy in COVID-19 patients. After graduation, she was involved in the analysis of melanoma microRNA profile in the Non-Coding RNA & Cancer biomarker laboratory at University of Bologna.

Maristella joined the Cancer Gene Therapy Unit in 2022 for her Master Thesis internship.

Alessandro vallorini

Alessandro Vallorini

MD student

Alessandro Vallorini is currently enrolled in the Medicine and Surgery Program of Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan. Previously, Alessandro participated in an internship, which focused on investigating the role of damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) in malignant mesothelioma (2019, Chromatin Dynamics Unit).

From 2022, Alessandro has participated in several activities in the Cancer Gene Therapy Unit and, starting from May 2023, he joined the Unit for his Thesis internship. 

Eleonora Carito

Eleonora Carito

Master student

Eleonora Carito obtained her bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology from University of Milano-Bicocca in 2022, with a thesis focused on the functional relationship between DNA double-strand breaks and DNA:RNA hybrids in yeast. Eleonora is currently enrolled in the Industrial Biotechnology master program of the University of Milano-Bicocca.

Eleonora joined the Cancer Gene Therapy Team in September 2023 for her master thesis internship.

Past members

Thomas Kerzel

Thomas Kerzel, M.Sc.

PhD Student

Thomas Kerzel obtained his Master’s degree in biochemistry at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. During his studies he focused on the development of targeted lentiviral vectors and AAVs for in vivo gene therapy with the purpose of generating CAR T cells in vivo. Hereby, cell specificity is achieved by fusing single chain antibodies or DARPins to the vector surface. In his PhD thesis at Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Thomas is involved in the development of an LV-based in vivo cancer gene therapy aiming at breaking immune evasion mechanisms of liver metastases.

Federica Trippitelli

Federica Trippitelli, M.Sc.

Research fellow

Federica Trippitelli obtained her Master Degree in Biotechnology and Medical Biology (2022) at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan. For her Master Thesis internship, she worked on the development of a combined therapeutic approach to improve the functionality of TCR-edited T cells in epithelial ovarian cancer. After graduation, she continued working in the lab to establish an organoid-based tumor model from ovarian cancer biopsies to better assess T-cell mediated antitumor immunity.

At the end of 2022, Federica joined the Cancer Gene Therapy Unit as a research fellow to improve her knowledge in cancer immunology field.


Eloise Scamardella, Ph.D.

Research assistant

Eloise Scamardella graduated in Molecular Biology at the University of Naples Federico II where she studied the antitumor effect of oncolytic viruses. In 2020 she obtained a PhD degree in Immunology at Open University/Humanitas. During her studies she focused on molecular mechanisms regulating memory CD8 T cell differentiation and she developed a new strategy to improve CAR-T cell immunotherapy. She worked as a lab technician in our group. Eloise is currently employed as lab manager in the  Group of Enrico Lugli at the Humanitas Research Center, Milan.


GM picture

Gabriele Metalli

master Student

Gabriele Metalli graduated in Biotechnology (BSc) at the Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna in 2018 with an experimental thesis aimed at developing vectors for the study of a novel candidate gene in Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia. During the years he attended a summer program at the University of Kent, where he studied different protocols for the production of single-chain antibodies for Acute Myeloid Leukemia target therapy, and a five month fellowship at the Molecular Pathology unit of the Sant’Orsola hospital of Bologna. Gabriele is currently attending the master course in Cellular and Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Trento, specializing in Cancer Biology. In the our Cancer Gene Therapy Unit, Gabriele performed an internship for his Master Thesis in our lab. He is now preparing his Master Thesis.

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