This year’s Patton Lecturer was Professor Francesco Pennacchio, Laboratory of Entomology “E. Tremblay”, Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Napoli “Federico II”. His lecture was presented at 3 pm on Monday 15th October 2018.
Franco’s lecture concerned Insect immunity as affected by stress factors. Insect immune barriers are suppressed by invading parasites and pathogens, which have developed effective virulence strategies, as a result of a long co-evolutionary process. However, the immune response is not only modulated by these biotic stress factors, but is also conditioned by several abiotic stressors. Among these, poor nutrition and pesticides play an important role. In particular, neurotoxic insecticides are able to interfere with the cross-talk between the nervous and immune systems, often separately considered. Unveiling the regulatory mechanisms of these physiological networks paves the way towards the development of new bioinspired strategies for pest control and pollinator protection.
In addition to presenting the annual Patton Lecture, Franco met with graduate students to discuss publication strategies, based on his role as editor of Journal of Insect Physiology, and met with faculty and researchers. Franco extended his stay by a day, and we were glad to host a tour of our local region, including a visit to the State Park at Watkins Glen.
Francesco Pennacchio is Professor of Entomology at the University of Napoli “Federico II” (Italy), Visiting Professor at Newcastle University, and coordinator of an international network of PhD Schools in “Insect Science”. He is member of the Italian National Academy of Entomology, currently serves as President of the Italian Entomological Society (Società Entomologica Italiana), and as member of the Council for International Congresses of Entomology. He is co-editor in chief of “Journal of Insect Physiology”, since 2010. In 1989 he received a PhD in Entomology, at the University of Napoli “Federico II”, for his research on parasitic Hymenoptera biology, on which he continued to focus as visiting scientist (1989-1991) at Texas A&M University (College Station, TX, USA). The study of the molecular physiology of insect parasitoids and of the interactions with their victims and host plants is at the core of his research interests, along with biotechnologies for insect control that can be developed based on this knowledge. He is internationally recognized for his work on insect immunity and immunosuppression strategies by parasites and pathogens, and on how environmental stress can alter insect immunocompetence. In 2013 he was awarded the Cozzarelli Prize by the National Academy of Sciences of USA for his work on elucidating the molecular mechanism through which the neonicotinoid clothianidin adversely affects the insect immune response and promotes replication of a viral pathogen in honeybees bearing covert infections. This work sheds new light on a further level of regulation of the immune response in insects and has implications for bee conservation.
More information about the Patton Lecture Series is available here.