Biologist Martinelli: ‘The importance of getting vaccinated’

Part of the panic over the Coronavirus is due to not having vaccinated, for the founder of a start-up dedicated to the analysis of big data in the biomedical field

“Part of the panic generated by the current coronavirus epidemic is due to the lack of a protective vaccine that limits its spread: this underlines the importance of the development and use of vaccines by the population”. Axel Martinelli is a biologist and since 2019 he has been part of the team of researchers responsible for BigOmics Analytics, based in Bellinzona, a start-up established at the IOR, the Research Oncology Institute, “with the aim of making the analysis of big data in the most accessible and rapid biomedical field », explains Martinelli, with many years of experience in infectious diseases.

Two founders of the start-up: Murodzhon Akhmedov and Ivo Kwee, now collaborators of Irb, the Research Institute in Biomedicine, and both with backgrounds in mathematics, programming and artificial intelligence. 

“Among other things, we have developed – continues Martinelli – a bioinformatics platform – of which we have also released, on the occasion of this epidemic, an open access, therefore public version – which allows researchers simple access to sophisticated analyzes of biomedical data, such as , for example, various samples of previous coronavirus infections such as MERS and SARS. Thanks to this platform, it is possible to quickly and intuitively view various information that can help in the study and fight against infectious diseases and tumors. For example, it is possible to identify potential drugs with antiviral activities, proteins for the development of vaccines or genetic indicators that signal the presence of an infection in the absence of symptoms, depending on the available data “. 

According to the biologist, events such as the current coronavirus epidemic “underline the importance of implementing these technologies in the medical field to facilitate the timely identification of infectious or cancerous diseases and help in the choice of suitable drugs”.

Yesterday, the ministers of health of the countries bordering Italy decided among other things not to close the borders, considering the measure “disproportionate and useless at the moment”. A decision that Martinelli shares. 

“If we think of all the pandemics of the past in Europe, such as the black plague, there were regions that could have remained isolated by surviving on agriculture, on the products of their lands: today – warns the researcher – to cut contacts with the outside world for months it would be impossible, unless you want the economy to collapse. ‘ Martinelli appeals to the sense of individual responsibility: «The advice is given for each flu epidemic to those who are infected and those who are highly vulnerable, such as the elderly or with other medical conditions.

Read the original interview (in italian) on La Regione online newspaper.