Biography:Ilaria Capua

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Ilaria Capua
Ilaria Capua daticamera.jpg
Alma materUniversity of Perugia,
Padua University
Known forpolitics, virologist,
avian influenza
Scientific career
InstitutionsIstituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie,
University of Florida

Ilaria Capua (Rome, April 21, 1966) is a virologist and former Italian politician, best known for her research on influenza viruses, particularly avian influenza, and her efforts promoting open access to genetic information on emerging viruses as part of pre-pandemic preparedness efforts.

Dr. Capua is currently a full professor with Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS), and has a joint appointment with the College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Public Health and Health Professions at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, U.S. She was recruited as a pre-eminent professor to direct and lead the UF One Health Center of Excellence in research and training.[1]

A veterinarian by training, she has mainly worked in the field of veterinary virology and zoonotic viral infections.[2] She worked for over twenty years in the network of the Istituti Zooprofilattici in Italy, and headed the national and international reference laboratory for Newcastle disease and Avian Influenza at IZSVE for over ten years. In response to the 1999-2000 outbreak of avian flu in Italy, Capua and colleagues proposed and developed a novel strategy for vaccinating commercial poultry against the disease, which was adopted and enabled the industry to avoid complete shutdown.

In February 2006, Capua drew international attention when she challenged the existing system for granting scientists access to genetic material sequenced from influenza viruses.[3] At the peak of the H5N1 panzootic, Capua decided to post the sequence of the first H5N1 African virus on a publicly accessible website (GenBank) rather than accept an invitation to contribute the data to a password-protected database maintained in Los Alamos and accessible only to a small group of researchers.[3] During this time, Capua spearheaded an international campaign promoting free access to genetic sequences derived from influenza viruses and other viruses with pandemic potential.[4][5][6][7][8] One observer described Capua as "belonging to a longstanding tradition of scientists rebelling against established ideas and the upper echelon among their colleagues" but also advocating a new outlook in which scientific cooperation is "enacted directly between scientists and not mediated by institutions."[9]



Born in Rome in 1966, Ilaria Capua graduated with honors in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Perugia in 1989.[10] In 1991, she completed a post-graduate specialization course in Animal Health and Hygiene at the University of Pisa.[10] She obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Padua in 2007 on Avian Influenza epidemiology, inter-species transmission and control.[11]

Scientific Activities

Prior to joining the Italian Parliament, Capua served as director of the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences for the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie (IZSVe), Legnaro in Padua.[1] The department is home to the National FAO/OIE Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza and Newcastle Disease, and is the OIE Collaborating Centre for Diseases at the Animal/Human Interface. In 1999-2000, responding to a persistent but relatively non-virulent strain of H7N1 avian flu hindering Italy’s commercial poultry industry, Capua and collaborators developed an innovative approach, which was dubbed the “DIVA” strategy (Differentiating Infected from Vaccinated Animals) as a tool to support eradication practices.[2] The strategy involved inoculating poultry with an inactivated vaccine derived from an antigenically related H7N3 virus -- coupled with a diagnostic test directed to identifying antibodies to the neuramminidase antigen, that revealed whether avian-flu antibodies present in a subject animal were caused by the H7N3 vaccine or by the field H7N1 virus.[2] Once approved by the European Union, the program went live in November 2000.[2] The strategy enabled Italy’s poultry industry to continue trade and the target pathogen was eradicated from Italy.[10][12] Today, DIVA is among the strategies recommended by the European Union to combat avian influenza on a global scale.[13]

During the outbreak of panzootic H5N1 influenza, which could be transmitted from birds to people, Dr. Capua's lab in Padua received, for typing and characterization, a sample of the viral strain recently introduced in Nigeria.[3] Capua believed that broader circulation of knowledge related to genetic information on contemporary viruses was essential to improve preparedness and response, and declined the offer to submit the genetic sequence to a password-protected database as suggested by WHO.[3] Instead, Capua decided to deposit the genetic sequences to GenBank, a publicly accessible database, to make it available to the entire scientific community. On February 16, 2006, Capua contacted about 50 of her colleagues and encouraged them to deposit avian influenza genetic sequences in publicly accessible databases.[14] The journal Science reported on Capua’s effort, stating that she had “renewed the debate about how to balance global health against scientists’ needs to publish and countries’ demands for secrecy.”[5]

Capua’s initiative covered by the international press including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post.[3][15][16] The English-language scientific press continued to cover the debate, as did mainstream European press.[17]

Today, the WHO, FAO, and OIE promote and support better sharing mechanisms, data transparency, and an interdisciplinary approach to improve preparedness for pandemic events.[5] [7][8][18]

Dr. Capua has authored and co-authored more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, mainly on viral diseases of animals and diseases that can be transmitted from animals to people.[1] She has also co-authored two scientific textbooks concerning influenza and authored four non-fiction books for general readership.

Since June 2016, Dr. Capua has been a faculty member with the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, U.S.[1] At UF, she has continued to advocate for interdisciplinarity and open science, particularly open access to research data on pandemic diseases.

Personal History

Ilaria Capua is married to a Scotsman, Richard, and has a daughter born in 2004.[19]

Political Activities

In January 2013, Capua was asked to run for a seat on the Italian Parliament by Italian Prime Minister in office at the time Mario Monti, who sought to add scientists and academics to Parliament. Capua accepted, and in February 2013 was elected a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, one of the two divisions of the Italian Parliament.[20] Capua served for over two years as vice president of the Commission for Science, Culture, and Education of the Chamber of Deputies. [21]

Ilaria Capua resigned as a member of the Italian Parliament on September 28, 2016. Her resignation speech was published in the first page of Corriere della Sera.[22]

Legal Proceedings

Ilaria Capua

In 2014, while she was a parliamentarian, the Italian weekly magazine l'Espresso revealed that Capua had been the subject of a 10-year criminal investigation by Italian police. The magazine contained a cover article which reported of a conspiracy between scientists and big Pharma to increase the sales of vaccines by spreading viruses deliberately.[23]

In July 2016, Dr. Capua was cleared of all charges by the judge for preliminary investigation of the Court of Verona, because "there was no case to answer." the judge's decision mentioned that "there was evidence of fabrication of evidence against her." [24][25][26][27][28]

Works and Publications


Ilaria Capua, Franco Mutinelli, A color atlas and text on Avian Influenza, Reno, Papi Editore, 2001, ISBN:88-88369-00-7.

Ilaria Capua, Dennis Alexander (Eds), Avian Influenza and Newcastle Disease: A Field and Laboratory Manual, Milan, Springer Healthcare Italia S.r.l., 2009, ISBN:978-88-470-0825-0.

Ilaria Capua, Idee per diventare veterinario - Ideas for veterinarians-to-be. The study of animal diseases, public health and the fight against bird flu, Bologna, Zanichelli, 2007, ISBN:978-88-08-26628-6.

Ilaria Capua, I virus non aspettano, Avventure, disavventure e riflessioni di una scienziata globetrotter - Viruses do not wait. Adventures, misadventures and reflections of a globetrotter researcher, Venezia, Marsilio, 2012, ISBN:978-88-317-1295-8.

Ilaria Capua, l'Abbecedario di Montecitorio - The ABC spelling book of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Padua, In Edibus, 2016.

Ilaria Capua, Io trafficante di virus - I, the virus trafficker - Rizzoli, 2017, ISBN:978-88-17-09387-3.


Ilaria Capua's publications in peer reviewed journals can be found here.

Honors and Awards

Major and International Honors and Awards

2005 - Houghton Trust Award (WVPA)[29]

2006 - ProMED-mail Anniversary Award for Excellence in Outbreak Reporting on the Internet[14]

2007 - Scientific American 50 award by the magazine Scientific American[30]

2008 - Named a "Revolutionary Mind" by the magazine Seed[31]

2009 - "Great Hippocrates Award" from the Italian National Union of Scientific Medical Information[32]

2011 - Penn Vet World Leadership in Animal Health Award from the University of Pennsylvania[33][34]

2012 - Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic[35]

2012 - Gordon Memorial Medal Nottingham[36][37]

2013 - International Prize "Guido Lenghi and Flaviano Magrassi 'from' Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei for biological or clinical virology[38] [39]

2014 - Excellence Award 2014 awarded by ESCMID, European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases[40][41]

2017 - International literary prize for Science and Arts, Fondazione PescarAbruzzo[42]

2017 - Schofield Medal University of Guelph[43]



Further reading

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Ilaria Capua - Emerging Pathogens Institute - University of Florida" (in en). 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Enserink, Martin (2006-11-10). "Italy's Influenza Diva" (in en). Science 314 (5801): 918–919. doi:10.1126/science.314.5801.918. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 17095672. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Zamiska, Nicholas. [ "Scientist Rebels Against WHO Over Bird Flu"] (in en-US). WSJ. 
  4. "Dreams of flu data". Nature 440: 255-256. March 16, 2006. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Enserink, Martin (2006-03-03). "As H5N1 Keeps Spreading, a Call to Release More Data" (in en). Science 311 (5765): 1224–1224. doi:10.1126/science.311.5765.1224. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 16513948. 
  6. Enserink, Martin (August 24, 2006). "CDC Opens Up Flu Archives". Science Magazine. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Riddle, John (August 1, 2006). "Avian Flu: global sharing of virus samples". FAONewsroom. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "OFFLU keeps its pace on global sharing of avian influenza virus samples". July 31, 2006. 
  9. Delfanti, Alessandro (2013). Biohackers: The Politics of Open Science. London: Pluto Press. pp. 108, 97. ISBN 978 1 8496 4906 3. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "Doctor Ilaria Capua". 
  11. "Ilaria Capua - WVPA". 
  12. Capua, Marangon, Ilaria, Stefano (February 16, 2007). "The use of vaccination to combat multiple introductions of Notifiable Avian Influenza viruses of the H5 and H7 subtypes between 2000 and 2006 in Italy.". Vaccine 25: 4987-4995. 
  13. "Council Directive 2005/94/EC of 20 December 2005 on Community measures for the control of avian influenza and repealing Directive 92/40/EEC". Official Journal of the European Union 49F: 16-65. January 14, 2006. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 "ProMED-mail Anniversary Award for Excellence in Outbreak Reporting on the Internet". 2006. 
  15. "Secret Avian Flu Archive" (in en-US). The New York Times. 2006-03-15. ISSN 0362-4331. 
  16. Brown, David (2006-05-25). "Bird Flu Fears Ignite Debate on Scientists' Sharing of Data" (in en-US). ISSN 0190-8286. 
  17. Nau, Jean-Yves (April 10, 2006). "Appel pour la mise en commun des données sur le H5N1". Le Monde. 
  18. Altman, Lawrence K. (March 21, 2006). "Health Officials Urge Nations to Report Bird Flu Data Sooner". The New York Times. 
  19. Capua, Ilaria (2017). Io, trafficante di virus - una storia di scienza e di amara giustizia. Rizzoli, Milano: Rizzoli Libri S.p.A. pp. 36. ISBN 978-88-17-09387-3. 
  20. Abbott, Alison (February 21, 2013). "Reforms at stake in Italian election". Nature 494: 293. 
  21. "XVII Legislature - Deputies and Organs - Member card - CAPUA Ilaria". 2015. 
  22. Capua, Ilaria (September 28, 2016). [ "«Io, Ilaria Capua, lascio la Camera Questione di rispetto e credibilità» Ecco la lettera di dimissioni"]. Corriere della Sera. 
  23. Abbate, Lirio (April 3, 2014). "Il business segreto della vendita dei virus che coinvolge aziende e trafficanti". L'Espresso. 
  24. Feltri, Mattia (June 25, 2017). [ "Il caso Ilaria Capua: radiografia del suicidio italiano"]. La Stampa. 
  25. Mieli, Paolo (May 29, 2016). "Un Paese che detesta la scienza". Corriere della Sera. 
  26. Stella, Gian Antonio (July 6, 2016). "Finisce il calvario di Ilaria: Ma ora mi sento sfregiata". Corriere della Sera. 
  27. Capone, Luciano (July 7, 2016). "Gli ozi di Capua del garantismo". Il Foglio. 
  28. Barone, Luca Tancredi (July 14, 2016). "Criminal charges against prominent Italian flu scientist dismissed". Science Magazine. 
  29. "The Avian Pathology Lecture". 2018. 
  30. Choi, Charles Q. (January 2008). "SciAm 50: See-Through Technology and Better Sleep". Scientific American. 
  31. "The Revolutionary Mind of Dr. Capua". 2008. 
  32. "Premio Grande Ippocrate". 2018. 
  33. Stratton, Kelly (September 14, 2011). "Penn Vet Announces Recipients of World Leadership in Animal Health Award, Student Inspiration Award". Penn Today. 
  34. Larkin, Malinda (September 14, 2011). "Award winner recognized for forward thinking". Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA). 
  35. "Le onorificenze della Repubblica Italiana". November 9, 2012. 
  36. "Robert Fraser Gordon Memorial Lectures". 2012. 
  37. "The WVPA Hall of Honour". 2018. 
  38. "Premio della Fondazione “Guido Lenghi e Flaviano Magrassi”". June 21, 2013. 
  39. Cerati, Francesca (June 21, 2013). "L'accademia dei Lincei premia la virologa Ilaria Capua". Il Sole 24 Ore (In Italian). 
  40. Hoffman; Bartley, Claire; Cathy (May 12, 2014). "Scientific excellence award given to a woman for the first time in recognition of her leadership in the field of avian influenza". ESCMID - Press Releases 2014. 
  41. Bosurgi, Raffaella (July 2014). "Highlights from the 24th ECCMID". The Lancet 14: 557-558. 
  42. "Premio Internazionale NordSud 2017". October 11, 2017. 
  43. "One Health leader presents prestigious Schofield Lecture". November 29, 2017.