Project name

CISAS – “International Centre of advanced study in environment, ecosystem and human health”

CUP code (Unique project code):


Funding body

Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR) – CIPE Decision no.15/2015 of 23 December 2015

Total budget of the Project

€ 6.500.000

Start date

17 October 2016

End date

16 October 2019

Implementing bodies

Department of Earth System Science and Environmental Technologies DTA-CNR
Institute for Marine and Coastal Environment IAMC-CNR
Institute for Systems Analysis and Computer Science “A. Ruberti” IASI-CNR
Institute of Biomedicine and Molecular Immunology IBIM-CNR
Institute of Clinical Physiology IFC-CNR


Agreements between CNR-DTA, the Public Research Institutions, the Universities and the Institutes involved have been signed (or are in the process of signing).

Below is a list of the institutions involved in the project:

Department of Earth and Sea Sciences – University of Palermo UniPA-DiSTeM
Marine Environment Research Center _La Spezia ENEA
Institute of Atmospheric Pollution IIA-CNR
Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate ISAC-CNR
Higher Institute of Health ISS
Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute (Palermo) IZS
University of Catania UNICT
University of Messina UNIME
University of Reggio Calabria UNIRC
University of Pisa UNIPI
Sicilian Region Regione Siciliana
Calabria Region Regione Calabria
Crotone Regional health authority ASP Crotone
Siracusa Regional health authority ASP Siracusa
Messina Regional health authority ASP Messina
Institute of Interdisciplinary Research in Molecular Human Biology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium IRIBHM

Project coordinator

Mario Sprovieri, CNR-IAMC

WP Leaders

WP1 Leader- Coordination, management and communication: Veronica Giuliano, CNR-DTA

WP2 Leader – Contaminants in the environment: Mario Sprovieri, CNR-IAMC

WP3 Leader – Contaminants in the ecosystem: Angela Cuttitta, CNR-IAMC

WP4 Leader – Etiological epidemiology: Fabrizio Bianchi, CNR-IFC

WP5 Leader – Molecular epidemiology: Fabio Cibella, CNR-IBIM

WP6 Leader – Biomathematics: Andrea De Gaetano, CNR-IASI

Steering Committee

The Steering Committee is composed of the Project Manager, the Project Coordinator and the WP leaders.


Person in charge of the Technical and Scientific Secretariat

Anna Lisa Alessi


Start of the project

The administrative start of the project was fixed on 17 October 2016, that is the date of the Kick-off meeting of the project, held in Rome at the Department of Earth System Science and Environmental Technologies of the National Research Council.

The meeting was attended by a large representation of the project’s partner institutions (DTA, IAMC, IFC, IBIM, IASI) and other CNR institutes involved, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Education, the Calabria Region, the Sicilian Region, the ISPRA (The Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research) and the Higher Institute of Health.

In that occasion the 6 Work packages of the project were presented and important issues concerning the management of the project were discussed.


Scientific objectives of the project

The purpose of the project is to create an “International center of advanced studies on environment and impacts on the ecosystem and human health” to be placed at the former Monumental Complex Roosevelt in Palermo, home of the newly established Mediterranean Sea Center of Excellence.


The three main objectives of the project are as follows:


  1. to restore the area and adapt its premises for advanced research activities in the relevant scientific area;
  2. to develop a complex and decisive scientific research action aimed at a deep understanding of the phenomena of environmental pollution and their implications on the ecosystem and human health, starting from a statistically significant number of case studies;
  3. to create a division dedicated to wide-ranging dissemination and advanced training in the field of environment and health.


Specifically, as regards the research program, the primary objective will be to understand, for a significant number of case studies, processes and mechanisms for the transfer of conventional (heavy metals, POPs, radionuclides, etc.) and emerging (eg., PBDE, new generation pharmaceutical compounds, etc.) contaminants, from the environment (intended as a complex of atmosphere, soil, sediments, inland waters, sea water matrices) to the ecosystem and man. In particular, the project studies the impact phenomena by the different species of contaminants on human health, with particular reference to the biochemical and biophysical mechanisms (with an integrated approach now known as “systems biology”) that determine and regulate the interactions between pollutants, ecosystem (in complexity and at different species-population levels) and human health (with an integrated and systemic approach), focusing, in particular, on the selection and use of model systems, toxicological tests and biomarkers closely related to the investigated environment.

The approach used is strongly inter and multidisciplinary, with a strong modeling contribution, aimed at studying scenarios in the various areas of interest. In particular, the adoption of a modern modeling approach (mathematics of complex systems) should allow us to detect the essence of the interaction networks between the different processes involved and identify possible approaches for an appropriate “manipulation” of its different components.


The project is divided into 6 Work Packages:

WP1 – Coordination, management and communication

WP2 – Contaminants in the environment

WP3 – Contaminants in the ecosystem

WP4 – Etiological epidemiology

WP5 – Molecular epidemiology

WP6 – Biomathematics


A support unit aimed at developing a numerical modeling action with a “complex system” approach will interact with all the phases of the project. The organization in Work package represents an over-simplification useful to understand and monitor the actions and the timing of the different activities. It goes also without saying that precisely the study of continuous interaction, in physical, chemical and biological processes and mechanisms, will represent the richness of this research program. The study of the interaction mechanisms at the interface of the various subsystems considered, as well as the phenomena of transfer and transport of contaminants in the different sectors, represent the real challenge of knowledge, useful for understanding “what” and “how” the environment really affects the health of the ecosystem and human beings.


Furthermore, the collection of information on the analysis of the impact of environmental pollution on human health and the environment is an essential prerequisite for the development of any technological system in the fields of chemistry, biology and biotechnology; this is why the results obtained within the proposed project will be useful deliverable itself for planning future industrial activities in other territorial contexts.


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