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He began his career interested in veterinary biology. He studied at the University of Rome La Sapienza, graduating in 1972 with a degree in medicine. Initially he worked in gastroenterology, but following a lecture by Patrick Steptoe he re-trained in obstetrics and gynecology, moving into reproductive and infertility work from 1978. He set up his own clinic in Rome in 1982. In 1986, he pioneered the use of the ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) process in Italy. From 1989 he extended IVF to women who had passed the menopause.
In May 2006, it was announced that 62 year old East Sussex child psychiatrist, Patricia Rashbrook, was seven months pregnant after being treated by Antinori, who said that 62 or 63 was the upper limit for IVF in healthy women. He commented that he would only consider couples with at least 20 years' life expectancy left for fertility treatment. Josephine Quintavalle, from Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE), accused Rashbrook of selfishness and said it would be extremely difficult for a child to have a mother who is as old as a grandmother.
In May 2009, after it was announced a 66 year old woman was pregnant he criticised her decision saying that he felt she was too old and may not live long enough to raise her child.
Antinori publicised his interest in human cloning from 1998; working with Panayiotis Zavos he argued in favour of cloning as an opportunity for infertile couples, who cannot use other methods. Genetic material from the father would be injected into an egg, which would then be implanted into the woman's womb to grow. The resulting child would, in theory, have exactly the same physical characteristics as the father.
Antinori told an Italian newspaper that more than 1,500 couples had volunteered as candidates for his research programme. In November 2002, Antinori announced that he had successfully used cloning to induce pregnancy in three women, with the birth of the first child expected in January 2003. He refused to give the identities of the women or details of where they lived, and mainstream scientists and doctors expressed scepticism about his claims.
- John Follain and Daniel Foggo, "Professor Severino Antinori: 'Mother-to-be too old at 66'", Sunday Times, 17 May 2009
- "Italy's Antinori says he's cloned three people", Eric J. Lyman, United Press International, 2002