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Hygiene and Public Health
Professor of Public Health, Humanitas University, Italy
Professor in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, UK
Coordinator of the Advanced Training Course in Clinical Epidemiology at Humanitas University
Education and Academic Background
Professor Elio Riboli’s career started at the Department of Epidemiology of the National Institute of Cancer, Milan (1978-1983). In 1983 he was appointed Medical Officer in Epidemiology at the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organisation-United Nations (IARC-WHO) based in Lyon, France. While at IARC in the mid 1980’s, he engaged a novel area of research focusing on the role of diet, nutrition and endogenous hormones in cancer aetiology. In 1988 this materialised into the initiation of the pilot phase of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), and its subsequent funding by the “Europe Against Cancer” programme of the European Commission, from 1992 onward. Professor Riboli has since been the European Coordinator and Principal Investigator of EPIC.
In 2006 Professor Riboli moved from IARC to Imperial College where he was initially appointed Professor and Chair in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention and one year later Head of the Division of Epidemiology, Public Health and Primary Care (DEPHPC). In 2009, he was appointed Director of the newly established Imperial School of Public Health, which ranked among the two top UK academic institutions in Epidemiology, Public Health and Health Services in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework.
Professor Riboli has collaborated for several years with Italian institutions on cancer epidemiology, in particularly with the National Cancer Institute in Milan, the Humanitas Research Center and University, the department of medical sciences of the University of Turin, the cancer prevention center in Florence, the Federico II University and Pascale Institute in Naples and the cancer registry in Ragusa. These collaborations have facilitated the scientific exchange and researchers’ mobility and helped the Italian institutions have a leading role at international level. In 2017, Professor Riboli was appointed Professor of Public Health at Humanitas University.
Scientific and Research Interests
Professor Riboli has developed an international research career in the fields of cancer and non-communicable disease epidemiology, translational public health and health promotion. His research activities have led him in the past to identify the need of establishing very large population-based longitudinal cohorts, supported by biobanks, designed to better investigate and understand the role of behavioural, metabolic and genetic factors in the aetiology of cancer and other common chronic diseases.
EPIC is a prospective cohort study established in 1992 that includes 521,000 participating volunteers in 24 collaborating centres in 10 European Countries. In EPIC, detailed questionnaire data on diet, lifestyle, personal history and health, standardised anthropometric measurements and 28 aliquotes of blood components (serum, plasma, DNA and erythrocytes) were collected at baseline and stored in liquid nitrogen for future studies. The EPIC biorepository was the first biobank of this size (about 9 million samples) connected with a prospective cohort study ever established in the world.
The research led within EPIC has contributed over the years to the discovery of the role in cancer causation of metabolic factors such as obesity, insulin resistance and other components of the “metabolic syndrome”. Some of these factors were thought to be specific of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. The discovery that these conditions are common risk factors to diverse chronic diseases has provided additional scientific bases for prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Since 2008 Professor Riboli has co-directed the design, establishment and operational implementation of the Qatar Biobank, a population prospective study aimed at investigating the causes of common chronic disease in the local population, namely obesity, diabetes, coronary heart diseases, asthma and other respiratory diseases. The Qatar Biobank programme aims to recruit 50,000 study participants and to follow them up to investigate risk factors of non-communicable diseases.
Professor Riboli has also been co-founder of a large international research consortium on cancer led by the US National Cancer Institute, consortium that he directed as President in 2014-2015.
Between January 2014 and June 2015 Professor Riboli was the Chair of the Executive Committee of the InnoLife Consortium that brought together 144 partners from European Universities, Industries and Health Services. In December 2014 InnoLife was successfully awarded by the EC to become the new Health Programme of the European Institute of Education, Innovation and Technology (EIT Health). EIT-Health is a public-private partnership that represents a total investment in education, innovation and business creation of 2.1 Billion Euro. He is currently member of the UK-Ireland EIT-Health center.
Since 2015 Professor Riboli has also been co-directing the establishment of the Health for Life in Singapore (HELIOS) Study, a state-of-the-art prospective cohort which will investigate the aetiology of complex diseases in Singapore. The pilot study will include 3,500 Singaporean participants from the three main ethnic groups (Chinese, Malay, and Indian) with the goal to extend the study to 10,000 participants.
Professor Riboli has co-authored over 900 publications and has an h-index of 107 in Scopus.
- Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E…. Riboli E, Norat T (2016). – Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ. 2016 Jun 14;353:i2716
- Muller DC, Murphy N, Johansson M… Riboli E, Brennan P (2016). – Modifiable causes of premature death in middle-age in Western Europe: results from the EPIC cohort study. BMC Med. 2016 Jun 14;14:87
- Ezzati M, Riboli E. (2013). – Behavioral and dietary risk factors for noncommunicable diseases. N Engl J Med 369(10):954-64.
- Ezzati M, Riboli E (2012). – Can noncommunicable diseases be prevented? Lessons from studies of populations and individuals. Science 337:1482-1487
- Pischon T, Boeing H, Hoffmann K, … Riboli E (2008). – General and abdominal adiposity and risk of death in Europe. N Engl J Med 359:2105-2120
Academic honors, awards and prizes
- Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, UK
- Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health of the Royal College of Physicians, UK
- Visiting Professor at New York University, US
- Visiting Professor at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Singapore
- Marsilius Lecture in Medicine and Public Health, Heidelberg University, June 2015
- French National Prize for Research Nutrition, National Institute of Nutrition, Paris, December 2003