Tuesday, June 15, 2010

L'Aquila Receives Aftershocks on June 10

I departed from L'Aquila to Rome on June 10, 2010 around 2:30 in the afternoon with Anna Tozzi of the University's International Office. On Friday, June 11, I met in Rome with Professor Margherita Mori. She informed me that after my departure from L'Aquila there was a series of shocks in the area. This is the list of earthquake activity since I departed:
June 10, 3:35 pm, magnitudo 2.3
June 12, 10:24 am, mag. 2
June 12, 10:31 am, mag. 2.1
June 14, 9:40 am, mag. 2.5
The website to get further information is: http://cnt.rm.ingv.it/earthquakes_list.php
INGV is the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia.
I called several of my new friends in L'Aquila to express my concerns. They appeared to be taking it in stride. My prayers are with them that these small shocks will be all that they experience. This reminded me of the fear after Katrina of future hurricanes hitting the area. The population in L'Aquila is returning and working to rebuild houses and their lives. I certainly hope that they will not be hit again.

Completion of Fulbright Specialists in Economic Development Program

My five-week Fulbright Specialists assignment is completed. We have accomplished much during this visit and I will return with a signed agreement from the Universita' degli Studi L'Aquila and LSU. There are many areas for joint collaboration and faculty / student exchanges. In addition. There are three identified joint research initiatives that are possible and I have identified possible LSU partners to link with the L'Aquila researchers. The town of L'Aquila is still in disrepair, much like New Orleans one year after Katrina. It is very sad to see an ancient city in shambles. Buildings built in the 14th century are in jeopardy of falling and the center city historic area is called the red zone and blocked off for safety. There are cranes and scaffolding holding up buildings built in the 14th century. The Provincia and university would like us to assist with several seminars on disaster management, resiliency and disaster preparedness. Also, they need help in planned growth. The university has 9 spin off technology companies interested in having a "soft landing" in the USA at the LBTC in Baton Rouge. I made great friends with great people in L'Aquila and at the University. Also, the Fulbright Office of the US State Department have encouraged me to find additional Fulbright Specialists and faculty at LSU that would like to come to Italy and assist in the recovery and redevelopment. I have had several meetings in Rome with the Fulbright leadership and will contact them for follow up assistance. I will do a final recap of the project as well as post more pictures from L'Aquila and Rome.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Agreement between the University of L'Aquila and LSU

Before I left Baton Rouge, I contacted the International Office of LSU A&M to get the standard form for Letter's of Intent between two universities. I was given a document to submit to the Universita degli Studi dell'Aquila, which I gave to Professors Anna Tozzi, Margherita Mori and Lelio Iapadre. Upon completing meetings on Wednesday, I recieved a signed agreement letter in both Italian and English, signed by Rector Ferdinando di Orio, Rector, University of L'Aquila on June 7, 2010. I am bringing this document to LSU for review and signature to confirm the Letter of Intent. It basically states that both universities are interested in organizing and performing joint research projects, academic seminars and guest lectures and would foster exchanges of scholarly materials, research reports and publications. There are many areas of common interest between the two universities.

Last Lunch in L'Aquila

Before we departed L'Aquila for my final meetings in Rome, Professor Anna Tozzi took us to a great restaurant, Ristorante Tipico Villa Feronia, a classic Italian restaurant from the historic center that was damaged badly by the earthquake and has now relocated to a rural area near town. This has been the case, and much like New Orleans after Katrina, where the good restaurants were forced to relocate into new areas, but maintained their excellent food and service. It was always a pleasure visiting the restaurants with the faculty and the people of L'Aquila as they could tell us the history, order the house specialties and converse with the owners. We were treated with excellent anti-pasta, specialty vegetables of the area, two pasta dishes and dessert. Oh, and the bread. They had a unique bread that was near a beignet - light puff and fried. Professor Tozzi is in charge of International Affairs for the University of L'Aquila and we discussed the agreement between LSU and L'Aquila and the potential areas for collaboration. We have made dear friends in L'Aquila and Rome. After staying 5 weeks in an area, you are not a tourists. You become one of the "locals" and I believe that Susan and I have made friends for life from both the University, the Fulbright staff, the Canadian Hotel owners and staff, several university students, many university faculty and local residents. It has been a great experience, like no other that I can relate.

June 9, last night in L'Aquila

My wife and I left the Canadian Hotel in L'Aquila and walked down the street to one of the restaurants located within walking distance of the hotel. It was a warm night with a slight breeze. When we arrived at the restaurant of choice, it was 7:20pm. The manager told us to come back at 7:30 when they opened. In five weeks, we still were not used to eating later than 7:30, which is the custom in most of Italy. In fact, in most restaurants in L'Aquila, the locals begin arriving between 8:30 and 9:00 pm. One humerous experience was when we arrived at La Botte, a nice restaurant that like so many others had to relocate from the historic central city to various locations after the earthquake, the owner was eating dinner with his staff. He seated us at our table and we were the only ones there (7:30 pm). He returned to his table and finished eating about 7:50pm. Then and only then did he come to our table and ask us for our order. At about 9:15, when we were finishing dinner, the restaurant filled up with the local patrons and we got to enjoy the festive atmosphere as the crowd arrived. The interesting thing that we observed in our 5 weeks in L'Aquila was being able to observe the recovery firsthand. One the street of our hotel, shops and restaurants began to open from week to week. Unfortunately for us, it was on the last night in L'Aquila that we discovered the opening of a great Gelateria only 4 blocks from the hotel. We did partake in the excellent gelato on the last night.

June 9 Visit to Dompe'

Dompe' is one of Italy's top Biotech companies and they have located a manufacturing, research and development and GMP production plant in L'Aquila. They sustained some damage during the earthquake but are back into full production. They facility is quite impressive and their technical expertise is in molecular biology, recombinant protein production by bacteria and yeasts, and production & purification protocalls development and optimization. Professor Rodolfo Ippoliti, of the L'Aquila Faculty of Biotechnologie hosted my tour and introduced me to Dr. Franck Martin, Contract Development Business Development Manager and Marcello Allegretti, Research and Development Director for Dompe'. We had a great visit and tour of this world class facility. They had interest in receiveing information on Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation at LSU, the LBTC at LSU and the Louisiana Emerging Technology Center and the Monsanto Biotech Incubator in St. Louis, which I told them about. I will send information and contacts to them when I return to Baton Rouge. They showed me their GMP facility, the lab scale fermentation and purification plants, the clinical grade production plant, the GMP protein characterization facility, and their clinical & toxicology support labs. Dr. Martin and Mr. Allegretti expressed interest in getting information on how they could convert several unused labs into a "bio-tech" incubator space that could accommodate university spin off bio-tech companies. I told them about the operations of the LBTC and the Emerging Technology Center and pull up their web sites for their review. I will send them policies and procedures on how they could organize that faciltiy and I will contact collegues at the Monsanto Facility to send supporting information. Professor Ippoliti was very interested in this concept and feels that there are some small start-ups that would take advantage of this situation. We will continue to communicate on this and I will assist them with information and documentation as needed. Attached are pictures of the facility that I took during the tour.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dompe Pharmaceutical Company Visit June 9

Today, I will be visiting the Dompe' Pharmaceutical company with Professor Rololfo Ippoliti. From the website: "The Dompé family’s commitment to the pharmaceutical industry dates back to the second half of the 19th century when Gian Antonio Dompé, the founder of the dynasty, with a passion for chemical and pharmaceutical science, opened a chemist’s in Piazza della Scala, Milan. More than a pharmacy it was a meeting place, or better an institution frequented by Verdi, Leoncavallo and Puccini." In the nineties, the company decided to strengthen their industrial commitment in Italy and, in 1993, founded, in L’Aquila, Dompé spa, a pole that still today comprises within it a Research Centre entirely dedicated to identifying new therapeutic solutions for curing rare diseases for which there is no cure and a Production Centre that develops drugs for the Primary care area. The university's biotechnology faculty is working with this company and the company can provide jobs to L'Aquila graduates. I will send pictures once I begin the tour.