Teresa Brevini

Cambridge Stem Cell Institute

Teresa is a third year PhD student in the Sampaziotis group at the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute (UK). Teresa grew up in Italy, where she obtained a BSc and a MSc in Medical Biotechnology at the University of Milan, while working as a part-time pastry chef. After her graduation, she secured an international PhD Fellowship (Juan Rodes, EASL) to continue her studies in the University of Cambridge. To address shortage of human organs for transplantation, she generated lab-grown tissues (bile ducts), which could be used to repair damaged livers instead of transplantation. During the pandemic, she volunteered to do frontline research and identified an inexpensive and approved drug which could be repurposed against COVID19. For her next step, Teresa decided to study Graduate Medicine to pursue her passion for translating scientific discoveries into tangible clinical solutions changing patients’ lives.

Developing treatments against SARS-CoV-2 is one of the most pressing clinical needs of our times. In my PhD, I discovered a new mechanism controlling SARS-CoV-2 entry in human cells and applied this knowledge to identify an approved drug (ursodeoxycholic acid, UDCA) that reduces viral infection through this mechanism both in vitro and in animals. I validated my findings in human organs perfused ex-vivo and coordinated a proof-of-principle prospective clinical study confirming these results. UDCA is a safe and inexpensive drug, affordable by low-income countries. It is effective against vaccine-escaping variants, including omicron, and is under consideration for large clinical trials.

As the first-author of this study, now in revision in Nature, I led this work, under the supervision of Dr Sampaziotis; specifically, coordinating various multidisciplinary groups from 8 international centres, I designed the study, developed the protocols, performed or supervised the experiments, analysed the data and wrote the manuscript.

Other 2022 award winners

Filip Boskovic

Katrin Fischer

Ana Gatoo Jimenez de Laiglesia

Chengzi Guo

Nomisha Kurian

Rakoen Marieke Maertens

Katerina Naydenova

Clayton Roberts

Benjamin Tuck

Vaithish Velazhahan

Clara Wanjura

Previous award winners

Find out about the winners awarded in previous years: