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Professoressa Ordinaria





Personal data
A. Work Address
Università degli Studi di Padova
Dipartimento di Scienze del Farmaco
via F. Marzolo 5 - 35131 Padova
tel +39 049 8275717
fax +39 049 8275366

B. Citizenship

C. Education
1989-1993: Ph.D. Degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Departments of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Padova, Padova, Italy and (1991-1992) at the Department of Biological Chemistry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA (Advisors: Prof. Manlio Palumbo – Italy, Prof. Leroy F. Liu – USA)
1989: Laurea Magna cum laude in Chimica e Tecnologie Farmaceutiche, Universita' degli Studi di Padova, Padova, Italy. Thesis Title: "Interaction between Nucleic Acids and new Potential Anticancer Drugs Derived from 1,4—diammino-9,10-anthracenedione" (Advisor: Prof. Manlio Palumbo)

D. Professional Position
2006-present : Associate Professor at the Department of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Padova, Padova, Italy
1997-2005: Ricercatore Universitario at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Padova, Padova, Italy
1992-1995: Post-doctoral research fellow at the Department of Pharmacology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Piscataway, NJ, USA (Advisor: Prof. Leroy F. Liu)

E. Ongoing, Pending, and Recently Completed Research Support

Grant Progetti di Grande Rilevanza Italy-US – Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale (MAECI)
Grant MIUR PRIN 2010: “Bloccare la replicazione di HIV-1 attraverso un approccio rivolto verso diversi bersagli molecolari
Grant MIUR PRIN 2008: progettazione, sintesi e attività biologica di agenti anti-hiv che interagiscono con target virali e cellulari innovativi (in, hat, tat/tar, cdk9, rnasi h, dimerizzazione dell'rt, ddx3, cxcr4 e ccr5)
Grant University of Padova: Progetti di Ricerca di ateneo (PRAT) 2008 “Nuovi biopolimeri aptamerici come sistemi per la coniugazione selettiva e il rilascio controllato di proteine ricombinanti”
Grant MIUR PRIN 2006: sviluppo di derivati chinolonici ed di altri eterocicli azotati come agenti anti-hiv: progettazione, sintesi, studio delle interazioni con nuovi target (in, rnasi h, tat/tar) e modulazione della farmaco-resistenza (nnrti)
Grant MIUR PRIN 2004: sviluppo di farmaci per la terapia delle infezioni da hiv/aids. ottimizzazione di leads specifici per: nuovi targets (tat, in), modulazione della farmaco-resistenza (nnrtis, pris) ed attivita' microbicida

F. For an updated list of grants and publication please refer to:
Barbara Gatto#ORCID:


The course Drug Discovery and Development will start on March 1, 2021, exclusively online.

Important notice for Erasmus students: if you had indicated this course in you LA, please let me know by email: before the beginning of the course:

Office hours

  • Gli studenti possono chiedere un appuntamento alla Prof.ssa Gatto all'indirizzo Please write to for an appointment, indicating: 1. your name and surname 2. your degree course/year 3. the object of the appointment



For an updated list of publication please go to:

Barbara Gatto@ORCID (

Research Area


The aims of the research developed in my laboratory can be summarized as follows:
➢ elucidation of the molecular mechanism of action of drugs interacting with nucleic acids, with established or potential therapeutic activity,
➢ molecular basis of receptor-ligand recognition,
➢ rational drug design and structure-activity relationship studies
➢ discovery of DNA/RNA aptamers able to bind and inhibit targets of pharmaceutical interest through combinatorial methods (SELEX).

The main research programs focus on the following two lines:
1. the design and study of the mechanism of action of known or novel drugs targeted at nucleic acids, alone or in complex with specific proteins, with potential applications in antitumor, antibacterial or antiviral chemotherapy: our aim is to design and investigate the mechanism of action of novel synthetic ligands targeted at specific sequences and/or structural contexts in DNA/RNA chains, in particular those relevant for therapeutic treatment (TAR-RNA, cTAR, PBS, PPT of the HIV genome, quadruplex DNA of the human telomeric sequence or of oncogenes). We characterize the physico-chemical parameters of DNA/RNA recognition of established or potential drugs and elucidate the mechanism of action of the new compounds in terms of recognition of specific nucleic acid sequences and interference with the activity of essential helix-tracking enzymes.

2. the development of nucleic acids aptamers as biosensors employing the technique known as SELEX, or Systematic Evolution of Ligands by Exponential enrichment, a methodology evolved from the unique insight that nucleic acids have sufficient capacity for forming a variety of two- and three-dimensional structures and sufficient chemical versatility available within their monomers to act as ligands with virtually any compound. This powerful technique allows the screening of large combinatorial library of nucleic acids with particular recognition properties.

Staff Expertise

My main expertise concerns the evaluation of the affinity between small molecule compounds and nucleic acids of viral and oncological interest. My main research interest is the study of the interaction of small molecule drugs with nucleic acids alone and in the context of protein complexes, namely:

1. The evaluation of the binding of the small molecule to nucleic acids, such as:
a. The characterization of the physico-chemical properties of the chosen molecules in acqueous solution, in order to evaluate the best conditions for spectroscopic and electrophoretic assays.
b. The evaluation of the affinity of the compounds for the nuclei acids outlined above to determine binding affinity and selectivity by spectroscopic, electrophoretic and microcalorimetric methods

2. The evaluation of the effect(s) of the compounds on the complex formed by the nucleic acids and their protein targets.
a. Evaluation of the inhibition properties of selected compounds on complex formation between nucleic acids and proteins is performed by spectroscopic, electrophoretic and microcalorimetric methods

3. the development of microarrays based on aptamers as biosensors.
a. The development of aptamers as array nanosensors for simultaneous multianalyte analysis is in collaboration with Veneto Nanotech.

Key words
Drug design. Antitumor drugs. Antiviral drugs. HIV-1 Nucleocapsid. TAR RNA. Quinolones. Topoisomerases. Nucleic acids. Aptamers.

Thesis proposals

Students interested in carrying out their experimental thesis in the laboratory of Prof.ssa Gatto are kindly asked write an to e-mail, attaching their CV and a motivation letter explaining the reasons for the request.