Former Salerno monastery restored to host biomedical research institute

The buildings of the former San Nicola della Palma monastery in Salerno, in the Campania region of southern Italy, have been restored with help from EU funds. The site now houses the headquarters of the European Biomedical Research Institute of Salerno (EBRIS), a joint project of the Fondazione Scuola Medica Salernitana and Harvard Medical School’s MassGeneral Hospital for Children.

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" After many centuries, scientific research returned to this site in 2012 thanks to the European Biomedical Research Institute of Salerno on the initiative of the Fondazione Scuola Medica Salernitana and the MassGeneral Hospital for Children of the Harvard Medical School. "

Vincenzo De Luca, former mayor of Salerno

Work under the project included the restoration of both the former Benedictine monastery, which was originally founded in 1060 AD, and the adjoining medieval thermal baths. The interiors were modified and equipped with the scientific infrastructure required for the activities to be carried out by EBRIS.

The restoration has resulted in the creation of a research centre with a total floor area of 3800 m². The institute comprises four state-of-the-art laboratories and has 120 fully functional workstations for scientists, students and researchers from around the world.

Connecting with the site’s heritage

San Nicola della Palma is an ancient structure of considerable architectural value situated in a location with panoramic views over the city and the Gulf of Salerno. The municipality set out to restore it as part of a wider urban regeneration programme focusing on the historical parts of Salerno.

The new use of the building demonstrates a close connection with its heritage. It was once home to sections of the Medical School of Salerno, a medieval school considered by many to have been the most important source of medical knowledge in Western Europe at the time. Appearing in around 1000 AD, the school was an example of a growing awareness of the centrality of humans in the process of preventing and curing illness and sharing knowledge. Muslims, Christians and Jews pooled their know-how for the benefit of humanity, enabling the school to transmit a message of peace and solidarity down the centuries.

Due to the age of the structure, the works had to take account of the findings of an archaeological survey completed in 2010 under the auspices of the archaeological superintendence. The ground floor provides direct access to the thermal bath area, and glass floors have been installed to emphasise the role the baths had in the past.

In this way, the facility has combined showcasing the region’s cultural heritage with moves towards enhancing scientific research in Campania. It was also chosen to host the launch event of the EU’s 2014-20 Regional Operational Programme for Campania, held in March 2016.

World-class research on health and nutrition

Established in 2012, the EBRIS Foundation aims to create a world-class research centre by developing projects focusing on the links between health and nutrition.

Research involves investigation into clinical conditions such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, autism and schizophrenia. The aim is to determine how nutrition, especially in the first years of life, influences the microbiome (the genes of microbes in the body), metabolic patterns and mechanisms governing the switch between tolerance of the immune system to and aggression against other cells in the onset of autoimmune diseases. In time, the results will benefit operators in the sector and the public, thanks to synergies between EBRIS, local agro-food producers, multinationals and international research institutes.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Restoration of the San Nicola della Palma Convent to host the European Biomedical Research institute of Salerno” is EUR 2 029 780, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 1 522 335 through the “Campania” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date