Dario Di Luca, Professor of Microbiology and Clinical Microbiology in the Department of Medical Sciences at the University of Ferrara, Italy, was awarded the HHV-6 Foundation’s Dharam Ablashi Lifetime Achievement Award at the 10th International Conference on HHV-6 & 7. This honor is awarded every other year to an investigator who has demonstrated extraordinary achievement in the field of HHV-6 research over the course of their career. Previous recipients include Philip Pellett (2015), Caroline Hall (2013), and Yoshizo Asano (2011).
Over the course of his career, Professor Di Luca has made significant contributions to the identification and understanding of adverse clinical outcomes associated with roseoloviruses. Working for decades at the interface between basic science and clinical research, his legacy includes some of the earliest studies of HHV-6 replication and tissue tropism, characterization of key gene transcripts for HHV-6A, HHV-6B, and HHV-7, as well as important translational contributions toward a deeper understanding of the impact of roseoloviruses in many clinical contexts including primary infection, HIV/AIDS interactions, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, infertility, and multiple sclerosis, to list a few.
In addition to his work as a staff and faculty researcher at the University of Ferrara since 1980, Professor Di Luca has held appointments as a visiting researcher to many of the world’s most prolific scientific institutions over the course of his career, including the National Institute of Health (USA), National Institute for Medical Research (UK), Deutsche Krebs Forschung Zentrum (Germany), Center for Disease Control (USA), and McMaster University (Canada). Beyond his long-standing research interests in HHV-6, HHV-7, and HHV-8, Di Luca has also made significant contributions to the biology of herpes simplex virus and papillomavirus oncogenesis, and most recently has turned his sights toward research on the innate immune response to viral and bacterial infections.
Following his introduction to HHV-6 while working as a researcher in the lab of Dr. Niza Frenkel, Professor Di Luca has subsequently participated in HHV-6-related meetings since the very first satellite meeting held in 1989 at the International Herpesvirus Workshop in Denmark. Since this time, he has helped organize many important meetings and community efforts that have carried the field to where it is today. A champion of the importance of virus classification and taxonomy, he also made major contributions in developing a multi-author community letter to the International Committee for Taxonomy of Viruses, detailing evidence in support of recognizing HHV-6A and HHV-6B as distinct herpesvirus species – paving the way for the official re-classification of these viruses. These crucial efforts have fundamentally changed the way researchers classify and characterize these viruses, and will profoundly impact the field for years to come.
The Dharam Ablashi Lifetime Achievement Award was initiated by the board of directors of the HHV-6 Foundation in 2006 and named after HHV-6 Foundation Scientific Director Dharam Ablashi who was co-discoverer of the virus in 1986 while at the National Cancer Institute. Subsequent awardees were Koihi Yamanishi, MD, PhD, Yoshizo Asano, MD, PhD, 2011, Caroline Breese Hall, MD, 2013 and Philip E. Pellett, PhD, 2015.