Napoleone Ferrara

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Laura Perin, Napoleone Ferrara, and Matteo Garbelotto.

Napoleone Ferrara, M.D. (born 26 July 1956, Catania), is an Italian-American molecular biologist who joined University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center in 2013 after a storied career in Northern California at the biotechnology giant Genentech, where he pioneered development of new treatments for cancer and age-related macular degeneration. There, he discovered VEGF—and made the first VEGF antibody—which suppresses growth of a variety of tumors. These findings helped lead to development of the first clinically available anti-angiogenesis inhibitor drug, bevacizumab (Avastin), which prevents the growth of new blood vessels into a solid tumor and which has become part of standard treatment for a variety of cancers. Ferrara’s work led also to the development of ranibizumab (Lucentis), a drug that is highly effective at preventing vision loss in intraocular neovascular disorders.


Ferrara received his medical degree from the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Catania, Italy, in 1981, and joined Genentech in 1988. He did his postdoctoral research at University of California, San Francisco.[1]

Current research[edit]

At UC San Diego Moores Cancer, Ferrara, a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 2006, serves as Senior Deputy Director for Basic Science and is a Distinguished Professor of Pathology in the UC San Diego School of Medicine, where he will continue cancer drug research targeting angiogenesis. He is presently focusing on investigating mechanisms of tumor angiogenesis alternative to VEGF, in particular the role of factors produced by myeloid cells and fibroblasts in mediating resistance to VEGF inhibitors.

For his VEGF discovery, he won a Lasker Award in 2010.[2] In 2013, he was awarded the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for his work.[3] He has also won numerous other awards, including the General Motors Cancer Research Award (2006), the ASCO Science of Oncology Award (2007), the Pezcoller Foundation/AACR International Award (2009), the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research (2011), and The Economist’s Innovation Award for bioscience in 2012.