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Le molte facce del contagio

English title The many faces of contagion
Applicant Fernandez Gonzalez Santiago
Number 199667
Funding scheme Agora
Research institution Istituto di ricerca in biomedicina (IRB) Facoltà di scienze biomedice
Institution of higher education Università della Svizzera italiana - USI
Main discipline Immunology, Immunopathology
Start/End 01.03.2021 - 28.02.2023
Approved amount 199'938.00
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All Disciplines (5)

Immunology, Immunopathology
Public Health and Health Services
Infectious Diseases
Methods of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine
Medical Microbiology

Keywords (13)

Vaccines; Medicine; Society; Ethics; Culture; Bacteria; Infectious diseases; Immunology; Dialogue science and society; History; Contagion; Microbiology; Virus

Lay Summary (Italian)

“Le molte facce del contagio” sarà un’esposizione interattiva sui temi del contagio e delle epidemie e sarà accompagnata da una serie di eventi paralleli per affrontare il tema del contagio in maniera pluridisciplinare e evidenziarne le conseguenze su tutti gli aspetti della società nonché la rilevanza storica.
Lay summary

Ci aspettiamo che grazie a questo progetto i visitatori rea­lizzino: che la storia umana è piena di fenomeni di contagio sin dagli albori ed è costantemente influenzata da essi, sia positivamente che negativamente; che la scienza ha sapu­to scoprire gli organismi che causano infezioni e svelarne i meccanismi; che grazie al progresso scientifico siamo oggi in grado di rallentare la diffusione delle malattie infettive, spesso anche di curare o vaccinare le persone, e che questo ha portato ad un aumento della qualità e dell'aspettativa di vita.

La recente pandemia causata dal virus SARS-CoV-2 ha spinto molti cittadini, davanti ad un tema complesso, a ricercare nella scienza e negli scienziati delle risposte risollevando il complesso dibattito tra scienza, politica e società.

In generale l'obiettivo del progetto è di inserire la ricerca scientifica in un contesto culturale accessibile a tutti. I visi­tatori non impareranno solamente la biologia del contagio, ma rifletteranno anche sulle implicazioni sociali e etiche che ne derivano. Si avvicineranno al mondo della ricerca per comprendere il suo ruolo nella nostra società.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 26.03.2021

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Project partner

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
189699 IMMUNEMAP: Enabling data-driven immunological research by making two-photon intravital microscopy data FAIR 01.12.2019 Biolink funds
176124 Role of lymph node phagocytes in the regulation of the IgG-mediated suppression of the immune response to influenza vaccine 01.10.2017 Project funding


Many citizens-in the face of the recent SARS-CoV-2 pandemic-have looked at science and researchers for answers. However, they clashed with the inevitable incertitude and complexity of the scientific process and revived the complex debate between science, politics and society. A simple virus, tens of times smaller than bacteria, has rekindled ancient fears of disease and death. The situation has highlighted the delicate matter of forced isolation, which is necessary to prevent disease but causes loneliness and seclusion. We have realized that humans, by nature, need interaction with others. We need to exchange ideas, be influenced by new trends, get to know different cultures, have a contagious laughter-all together. Therefore, contagion has a dual meaning: with respect to viruses, it becomes something frightening, but with respect to our anthropological peculiarities, it becomes something indispensable. This duality is the common thread of our project: on the one hand the complex journey of science in the fight against pathogens, on the other hand the centrality of contagion in human relations, evolution and culture. Although a pandemic originates from the meeting of a pathogen with an organism, it acts not only on the biological dominion but it spans to the entire society (behaviors, protective measures, isolation, political decisions, etc.). It is from this context that the project “The many faces of contagion” stems.We intend to develop an exhibition, educational paths for schools and a series of related events. We will start from the scientific competences of biologists to then enlarge the reflection to the term “contagion” in a broader sense. Starting from what we have learned from the past, through the current research performed in laboratories, to the future of epidemics, we aim at discussing with society. This project will provide visibility and value to the research-and to the researchers-active at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) of the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI). In fact, it is from this institution that the project initiates, specifically from DDr. Santiago González, who has been studying the influenza virus for years, a pandemic virus that profoundly changed the history of humankind. Biological notions require however the integration of historical and epidemiological aspects, as well as ethical and social ones. For this reason, such perspectives will be addressed thanks to the competences of medical historian Prof. Bernardino Fantini (University of Geneva) and epidemiologist Prof. Emiliano Albanese (USI), as consultants, and Fondazione Sasso Corbaro, which has been studying ethical clinics and medical humanities for twenty years. L’ideatorio -USI’s service of science culture promotion and dialogue between science and society, regional antenna of Science at Cité-is partner of the project and will manage construction, animation and overall project management. Additionally, the city of Bellinzona and the regional tourism board will support the project by offering the prestigious location of Castelgrande, a UNESCO World Heritage castle in Bellinzona and, pending project approval by the SNSF, they will dedicate the 2022 edition of the cultural festival Sconfinare to the topic of contagion.The quality and impact of this project are guaranteed in the first place by IRB’s scientific excellence, by the experience of L’ideatorio in the management of science mediation projects and by the support of the city of Bellinzona. Additionally, the project counts on the great affluence of regional, national and international visitors to Castelgrande, the participation of a broad promotional network that includes schools, and the availability of substantial financial means.