Francesca Demichelis

Via Sommarive, 9 - 38123 Povo
tel. 0461 285305 | 0461 282711
f.demichelis[at]unitn [dot] it

2005                PhD, University of Trento, Italy (UNITN), Information and Telecommunication.

1996                MSc, Physics Department, UNITN.

Academic career and teaching activities


2018 Jan–present       Professor (BIO11), Head of the Laboratory of Computational and Functional Oncology, Centre for Integrative Biology, UNITN.


2014 Oct –2017 Dec   Associate Professor (BIO11) with tenure, Head of the Laboratory of Computational Oncology, Centre for Integrative Biology, UNITN.


2011 Feb–present       Group Leader, Computational and Functional Oncology, UNITN.


2011 Feb–2014 Sept   Assistant Professor in Computational Biology, Head of the Laboratory of Computational and Functional Oncology, Centre for Integrative Biology, UNITN.


2008 July–2011 Jan    Assistant Professor in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and in Computational Biomedicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY.


2007 Oct–2008 June   Instructor in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Institute Fellow at Institute for Computational Biomedicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY.


2005 Feb–2007 Sep    Post-doctoral Fellow at the Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Research work

Dr. Demichelis has expertise in the area of cancer genomics that builds on more than ten years of interdisciplinary work with focus in the field of prostate cancer. Since 2011 she leads the Computational and Functional Oncology Laboratory (University of Trento) with 10 members (fully funded through competitive grants) including both computational and experimental wet laboratory post-docs and PhD students. Her research focuses on the characterization of cancer evolution and progression and on the identification of germline and somatic diagnostic and prognostic cancer biomarkers.  The laboratory recently developed a framework to chart tumor evolution maps exploiting the clonality information of cell populations (Baca S et al, Cell 2013; Prandi D et al, Genome Biology 2014). Application to cell free DNA allowed to monitor lethal prostate cancer dynamics (Carreira S et al, Sci Transl Med. 2014 Sep 17;6(254):254ra125) and to study response to second-generation anti-AR treatment in castration resistant prostate cancer patients (Romanel A, et al. Sci Transl Med. 2015 Nov 4;7(312):312re10.). Her research group significantly contributed to the definition of the molecular determinants of AR-independent prostate cancer across genomics, transcriptomics and epigenetics and of treatment resistance mechanisms in collaboration with Weill Cornell Medicine (NY) and the Broad Institute of M.I.T. and Harvard University (Beltran H, Prandi D et al, Nat Med. 2016 Mar;22(3):298-305) and with Memorial Sloane Kettering (Mu P et al, Science 2017). Most recently she led a pioneering study that bridges the individual’s inherited genetics and acquired somatic genomics in the context of cancer development (Romanel A et al, Nat Communications, 2017). This study supports the need to characterize inherited determinants of molecularly defined subclasses of cancers.


She served as active member of international consortia including MAQC-II, TCGA-PRAD, Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C) (resulting in publications in Nat Biotechnol. 2010, Cell 2015, Cell 2015, respectively) and currently of the CCG Ancestry Informative Markers AWG (TCGA-NCI) and SU2C-Prostate Cancer Foundation Dream Team for Prostate Cancer.  She is Faculty Member of International PhD Program in Biomolecular Sciences (University of Trento), member of its Executive Committee and leader of the Transdisciplinary Program in Computational Biology. Over the past five years she has consistently been an invited speaker at European and U.S. conferences and participated to the Scientific Program Committee of major meetings, including the 2016 AACR Annual Meeting and was invited to contribute to the 30th anniversary edition of Nature Biotechnology (Nat Biotechnol. 2016).


Funding agencies of the Demichelis laboratory research obtained through competitive applications (as Principal Investigator) include the US Department of Defense (DoD), the Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro (AIRC), the Fondazione Trentina per la Ricerca sui Tumori (FTRT), Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF), the Italian Ministry of University and Research (MIUR), the Fondazione Caritro, the US National Cancer Institute (NCI-NIH, through the WCM Specialized Program for Research Excellence in Prostate Cancer, Co-Leader of Project 1). In 2015, she was a 2M Euros awarded the European Research Council (ERC)-Consolidator grant (SPICE); the SPICE project integrates experimental and computational approaches to nominate and validate synthetic lethal pairs. In 2018, she was awarded a 5.7M Euros Accelerator Award to accelerate clinical research by CRUK-AIRC, on the implementation of liquid biopsy in the clinic.

Awards and honours


2005                Prostate Cancer Foundation Competitive Awards, “Fusion of TMPRSS2 and ETS Family of Transcription Factors in Prostate Cancer.”

2007                American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Team Science Award, University of Michigan-Brigham and Women's Hospital Team.

2008                Pilot Research Award for Translational and Cross-disciplinary Studies, Clinical and Translational Science Center at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. “Towards the Identification of Germline Risk factors for Lethal Prostate Cancer.”

2009                Dana-Farber Harvard Cancer Center SPORE Developmental Project Award. “Copy Number Variants Predisposing to ETS Rearrangements and Oncogenic Lesions.”

2010                Department of Defense, USA, New Investigator Award. “Towards Understanding the Genetic Predisposition for Signalling Pathway Activation in Aggressive Prostate Cancer.” 

2011                Prostate Cancer Foundation Challenge Award. Proposal title: “Recurrent SPOP Mutations in Prostate Cancer: Characterization of a Potentially Targetable Sub-class of Prostate Cancer.”

2014                Prostate Cancer Foundation Challenge Award (with Beltran H, Attard G). Early Detection of Neuroendocrine Prostate Cancer Transformation Using Circulating Genomic Signatures.

2016                Prostate Cancer Foundation Challenge Award (with Beltran H, Attard G, Van Allen E. Chi K., Wyatt A., Rubin, M.A., Maher C.). Development and Qualification of the PCF SELECT (Specific Evaluation in Liquid biopsies of Established prostate Cancer Targets) Plasma DNA Assay.

2018                Accelerator Award 2018 by CRUK-AIRC (with Attard, Basso, Caffo, De Giorgi, Tucci). PRIME for the use of liquid biopsy to accelerate clinical research.