In memoriam Giancarlo Lancini

31-10-2022

We are truly sad to inform that Prof. Giancarlo Lancini, former FEMS Delegate of the Italian Society for General Microbiology and Microbial Biotechnology passed away on 11 October 2022, at the age of 89.

Giancarlo Lancini was born in Brescia, Italy in 1932. Giancarlo studied chemistry at the University of Pavia and spent his entire professional career in industry at Lepetit, where he was Research Director for several years. He followed the company through several mergers and acquisitions until his “formal” retirement in the early 1990s. However, he continued following the activities of the Lepetit Research Centers and its subsequent incarnations as Biosearch Italia, Vicuron Pharmaceuticals and FIIRV well into the mid 2010s. Early on in his career he became a microbiologist at heart, fascinated by microorganisms and the sophisticated molecules they make, and was interested in and knew about all aspects of microbiology, from genetics to physiology, from antibiotic biosynthesis to their mechanism of action, from isolating microorganisms from the environment to industrial production of microorganism-derived molecules.

His professional accomplishments include being part of the team that discovered the marketed antibiotics for human use rifampicin and teicoplanin, as well as several first-in-class molecules that made into human clinical trials. Unusual for a person who spent his entire career in a single industry, Giancarlo was a true international scientist. He was the main author of the book “Antibiotics: An Integrated View”, first published in Italian in 1977 and then translated into English in 1982 and into Russian into 1985, followed by the 2nd edition “Antibiotics: a Multidisciplinary Approach”, published in 1995 in English. His scientific accomplishments enabled Giancarlo to achieve the “libera docenza”, akin to the German Habilitation, hence his title as “professor”.

Giancarlo Lancini (right) with Stefano Donadio (ca. 1997)

Giancarlo was also engaged with professional societies in microbiology: for a couple of decades, he was the Italian representative for the International Committee of GIM (Genetics of Industrial Microorganisms), was one of the major contributors to establishing the Italian Society for General Microbiology and Microbial Biotechnology (SIMGBM), which embraced participation by microbiologists in industry, and was for over two decades the SIMGBM Delegate at FEMS. And it was through its role as Delegate at FEMS that Giancarlo finally managed to convince SIMGBM to open its memberships to junior microbiologists, who could then be entitled to access the generous FEMS grants.

Giancarlo was a social person and it was a pleasure, and an intriguing experience, to discuss with him about almost anything: microbiology, science in general, economics, literature, art and politics. In that, he was a truly “Renaissance man” with an impressive breadth of knowledge and a brilliant mind. Giancarlo enjoyed being with other people and had a very good sense of humor and of self-irony: he enjoyed telling jokes about managers (he had been one for many years) and about consultants (when he was one). Once he told me this story: “I always looked older than my actual age. During my job interview at Lepetit, after asking questions about my studies and my laboratory skills, the interviewer looked at me and asked why it took me so long to graduate. He had just looked at me and not read my CV!”

About the author: Stefano Donadio is past FEMS Secreatary General, co-founding member of the FEMS Business Network, and founder and CEO of Naicons. He has over 30-year industrial experience in large, medium-size and startup companies involved in antibiotic discovery and development. He holds a degree in Chemistry from The University of Naples, Italy, with post-doctoral experience at Johns Hopkins University and The University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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