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Department of Veterinary Medicine

Cambridge Veterinary School

Studying at Cambridge


Alessandro Rizzo

Alessandro Rizzo

The structure and the biological function of the ASC speck during infection and in the Neonatal-Onset Multisystem Inflammatory Disease

Supervisor - Prof Clare Bryant

Office Phone: 01223 764961


I obtained my BSc in Biotechnologies and my MSc in Molecular and Cell Biology (Hons.) from Tor Vergata University, Rome (2010). My research involved the use of protein-protein interaction assays to study the divisome (the bacterial cell division machinery). This machinery is conserved between E. coli and S. pneumoniae and could be a target for new antibiotics.

I then joined Dr Roberto Di Leonardo’s Microphysics Group in Sapienza University, Rome, on a project co-supervised by Dr Maria Lina Bernardini, aimed to apply optical tweezers and holographic microscopy to investigate bacterial motility and eukaryotic cell structure.

In 2012 I moved to Cambridge for an MRes, where I worked under the supervision of Dr Julia Gog (DAMTP) and Prof Clare Bryant (Veterinary Medicine) on the Mathematical analysis of Salmonella enterica interaction with macrophages.

In 2013 I began my PhD in Veterinary Medicine in Professor’s Bryant Lab, to investigate the structure and the biological function of the inflammasome, an intracellular protein complex with a central role in innate immunity, during infection in health and autoinflammatory disease.

Subject groups/Research projects

Infection and Immunity:

Research Interests

I am interested in applied, multi-disciplinary research aimed at improving human health.

For my MSc I worked on a project directed towards the development new antimicrobial agents, targeting cell division in E coli and Streptococcus  pneumonia.

During my work at Rome’s Sapienza University I broadened my research horizons, improving my knowledge of microscopy and my awareness of the importance of collaborative research.

I am currently working in Professor’s Bryant Lab on the inflammasome, a molecular platform assembled inside the cell upon recognition of pathogens (PAMPs) or other signal associated with danger (DAMPs). This event appears to be important in the activation of the immune response, although the precise role of this complex and its structure are not known. On the one hand, understanding this will increase our knowledge of how the immune response works and therefore help the development of new vaccines. On the other, it could dramatically improve the lives of patients affected by neonatal-onset multisystem inflammatory disease (NOMID), a condition characterised by constant inflammation.


Dr Pietro Cicuta (

Dr Julia Gog (


  • Bio-physics
  • Inflammasome
  • Microbiology
  • Infection
  • Vaccines

Key Publications

Man, S.M., Ekpenyong, A., Tourlomousis, P., Achouri, S., Cammarota, E., Hughes, K., Rizzo, A., Ng, G., Wright, J. a, Cicuta, P., et al. (2014). Actin polymerization as a key innate immune effector mechanism to control Salmonella infection. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A.

Maggi, C., Lepore, A., Solari, J., Rizzo, A., and Di Leonardo, R. (2013). Motility fractionation of bacteria by centrifugation. Soft Matter 9, 10885.

Grenga, L., Rizzo, A., Paolozzi, L., and Ghelardini, P. (2013). Essential and non-essential interactions in interactome networks: the Escherichia coli division proteins FtsQ-FtsN interaction. Environ. Microbiol. 15, 3210–3217.

Angelani, L., Maggi, C., Bernardini, M.L., Rizzo, A., and Di Leonardo, R. (2011). Effective Interactions between Colloidal Particles Suspended in a Bath of Swimming Cells. Phys. Rev. Lett. 107, 138302.