Imperial College London


Faculty of MedicineDepartment of Surgery & Cancer

Honorary Lecturer



+44 (0)20 7594 2823silvia.ottaviani




ICTEM buildingHammersmith Campus





Dr Silvia Ottaviani's research is focused on investigating the role of non-coding RNAs, specifically microRNAs and long non-coding RNAs, in pancreatic cancer. In particular, Dr Ottaviani is interested in understanding how non-coding RNAs regulate the metastatic process, a multi-step process that involves the interplay between tumour cells and the microenvironment resulting in the spread of the cancer from the primary site. Pancreatic cancer is a deadly disease with high metastatic potential and most patients are often diagnosed with metastatic disease. Dr Ottaviani aims to identify novel targets for therapy for this stage of the disease. She is also interested in identifying circulating microRNAs in plasma or serum of cancer patients to discover novel biomarkers that can be easily translated to the clinic.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Ottaviani joined the effort of a collaborative research programme led by Prof Justin Stebbing on the repurposed drug baricitinib, to advance COVID-19 research. This research has led to phase 3 clinical trials and an FDA approval. Dr Ottaviani is now leading a project on the discovery of microRNAs as biomarkers in COVID-19 patients.

Dr Ottaviani has held a personal animal licence since 2014.

Dr Ottaviani is funded by grants from:


Action Against Cancer



Research Gate

Google Scholar


Dr Silvia Ottaviani obtained a BSc(Hons) in Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology in 2007 from San Raffaele University in Milan, with a summer placement in the RNA laboratory of Dr Elisa Izaurralde at EMBL in Heidelberg. Dr Ottaviani carried out her undergraduate project in Prof Luigi Naldiniā€™s laboratory on the applications of RNA-interference in diseases.

In 2008, Dr Ottaviani obtained an MSc in Molecular Medicine from Imperial College. During her MSc project she investigated the role of sphingolipids in prostate cancer cell motility by using a high-throughput cell-based screening video microscopy.

Dr Ottaviani then joined the laboratory of Prof Laki Buluwela and Prof Simak Ali at Imperial College to carry out a PhD project on the role of a novel androgen-regulated gene in prostate cancer, funded by Prostate Cancer UK. After completion of her PhD in 2012, Dr Ottaviani joined a project led by Prof Simak Ali and funded by CRUK that resulted in the discovery of an orally bioavailable CDK7 specific inhibitor for the treatment of breast cancer. The drug has now progressed to a phase 1 clinical trial.

In 2014, Dr Ottaviani joined the laboratory of Prof Justin Stebbing and Dr Leandro Castellano as Research Associate to investigate the role of non-coding RNAs in cancer.