Research Interests

The primary focus of our research team in the last years has been to understand how does genotype influence phenotype in inflammatory rheumatic diseases. In specific, we have identified and characterized functional genetic variants (SNPs) controlling gene expression (i.e. RUNX3 and IL-23R), binding of transcription factors and epigenetic modifications, within the complex landscape of the three-dimensional genome in the field of ankylosing spondylitis (AS).

In this context of functional genetics, we have started to study the reproductive tract of women with AS and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), exploring the relationship among the microbiome, resident immune mucosal cells, and genes function with the possibility to translate this into a programme of targeted discovery for new treatments.

Dr Vecellio received his PhD degree in Translational and Molecular Medicine in 2012 from the University of Milan – Bicocca (Italy). He has been working in the rheumatology and musculoskeletal disease field since 2013, when he joined the lab of Professor Wordsworth at the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences – University of Oxford, working on the genetics of AS.

He has been awarded in 2017 with 5 years Versus Arthritis Career Development Fellowship with a project on the regulation of the transcription factor RUNX3 in AS. From April 2023 he is also affiliated with the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics (University of Oxford) with a grant focusing on 3D genomics regulation in AS.

He has served as main author in several papers exploring the role of genetic variants associated with AS susceptibility and how those genetic variations function to disrupt the immune system, leading to inflammation.

His lab recent work has been recognized with the Garrod Award 2021- Excellence in Rheumatology Research from the British Society of Rheumatology. From November 2022 he has been appointed as Scientific Coordinator – Principal Investigator of the Centro Ricerche FIRA (Fondazione Italiana Ricerca sull’Artrite) at Fondazione Pisana per la Scienza Onlus. In 2022 he has achieved the National Scientific qualification as associate in Medical Genetics.

Current projects in the lab

  • To investigate the cervicovaginal system of AS- and RA- affected women with a meta-genomics approach to elucidate the immune crosstalk and how this might influence systemic and joint inflammation.
  • 3D organization in the nucleus plays a fundamental role in regulating gene expression and its dysregulation might have a major impact in complex diseases such AS. We aim to identify in resident lymphocytes higher-order chromatin structure associated with AS and elucidate its impact on gene regulation.

Our close collaborators include Prof. Montecucco (University of Pavia, Italy), Prof. Francesco Ciccia (University of Naples – Vanvitelli, Italy), Prof. Julian C. Knight (University of Oxford, UK),

If you are interested in our research don’t hesitate to contact us.


Wellcome Centre Human Genetics
University Campania
University of Pavia



In the context of Fondazione Pisana per la Scienza we have access to cutting-edge technology platforms. Please visit the website for further information

Useful Links


Publications FIRA 2023

Comprehensive epigenomic profiling reveals the extent of disease-specific chromatin states and informs target discovery in ankylosing spondylitis.

Brown AC, Cohen CJ, Mielczarek O, Migliorini G, Costantino F, Allcock A, Davidson C, Elliott KS, Fang H, Lledo Lara A, Martin AC, Osgood JA, Sanniti A, Scozzafava G, Vecellio M, Zhang P, Black MH, Li S, Truong D, Molineros J, Howe T, Wordsworth BP, Bowness P and Knight JC (2023)

Cell Genomics 3, 100306.

Connecting the use of innovative treatments and glucocorticoids with the multidisciplinary evaluation through rule-based natural-language processing: a real-world study on patients with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and psoriasis.

Motta F, Morandini P, Maffia F, Vecellio M, Tonutti A, De Santis M, Costanzo A, Puggioni F, Savevski V and Selmi C (2023)

Front. Med. 10:1179240.

Chromosome conformation capture approaches to investigate 3D genome architecture in Ankylosing Spondylitis.

Davidson C, Wordsworth BP, Cohen CJ, Knight JC and Vecellio M. (2023)

Front Genet. 14:1129207.


Dr. Matteo Vecellio


Dr. Matteo Vecellio, Principal Investigator

Scientific Coordinator Centro Ricerche Fondazione Italiana Ricerca sull'Artrite (FIRA)

c/o Fondazione Pisana per la Scienza ONLUS

Via Ferruccio Giovannini 13

56017 San Giuliano Terme (PI)


email: ,


2012 PhD in Molecular and Translational Medicine, Monzino Cardiologic Centre (CCM) and University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy

2008 MSc in Medical Biotechnology, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy


2023-2026 Principal Investigator, FIRA @ Fondazione Pisana per la Scienza, Italy

2018-2022 Junior Group Leader, University of Oxford, UK

2017-2022 Versus Arthritis Career Development Fellow, University of Oxford, UK

2013-2017 Research Associate, University of Oxford, UK

2012-2013 Research Associate, University of Frankfurt, DE


2023-2026 Fondazione Italiana Ricerca sull’Artrite/Fondazione Pisana per la Scienza starting grant, Italy

2022-2031 Italian National Scientific qualification as associate for the disciplinary field of Medical Genetics

2021 Garrod Prize Excellence in Rheumatology from the British Society of Rheumatology, BSR, Glasgow, UK

2019-2023 Versus Arthritis PhD Fellowship, University of Oxford, UK

2017-2022 Versus Arthritis Career Development Fellowship, University of Oxford, UK

2016 EUropean League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) Award, London, UK

2014 & 2015 Post-Doctoral Fellowships from The Umberto Veronesi Foundation (FUV), Milan, Italy

2008-2012 PhD fellowship from DIMET, University of Milan-Bicocca, Italy

Full list of publications available here


We are a small group but if you are interested in our research, feel free to contact us for available positions.



Dr. Matteo Vecellio, Ph.D

Principal Investigator - Scientific Coordinator

Centro Ricerche Fondazione Italiana Ricerca sull'Artrite (FIRA)

Fondazione Pisana per la Scienza ONLUS - Via Ferruccio Giovannini 13, 56017 San Giuliano Terme (PI), Italy