Fabio Spada started his research experience as an undergraduate student in the Developmental Molecular Biology Unit at the H.S. Raffaele Scientific Park (DIBIT), Milan, led by Prof. E. Boncinelli, where he contributed to the cloning and characterization of non-mammalian vertebrate homologues of the homeobox genes Emx1/2 and Alx. He then carried out doctoral studies in the lab of Prof. Marco E. Bianchi (H.S. Raffaele Scientific Park and Department of Genetics and Microbiology, University of Milan), working on the HMG box proteins Sry and Hmgb1. He characterized DNA binding and bending properties of Sry and showed that Hmgb1, then considered a structural chromatin protein, interacts very transiently with chromatin and, contrary to what proposed for its Xenopus homologue, does not function as an alternative linker protein in mammalian preimplanatation embryos.
He then spent a first postdoctoral period at the Sars Center for Marine Molecular Biology, University of Bergen, Norway. Here he contributed to pioneering a new animal model, the protochordate Oikopleura dioica, with comparative studies on histone post-translational modification and functional compartmentalization of the nucleus across chordate species (Oikopleura and Mammals). From 2005 to september 2012 he joined the Department of Biology at Ludwig Maximilians University (LMU) Munich, Germany, where he worked on maintenance of DNA methylation, DNA methylation-mediated silencing in embryonic stem cells and the roles of cytosine methylation and hydroxymethylation in controlling cell potency and differentiation.
From April 2011 to September 2012 he was locum Professor for the Chair of Human Biology and Anthropology at the Department of Biology, LMU, and held lectures on stem cell biology, reprogramming of cell identity, regenerative biology, epigenetics and methods for genetic and functional manipulation of gene expression in mammals.
He is now a senior research scientist at the Department of Chemistry, LMU, where he combines stem cell culture systems, metabolic labeling with stable isotopes and mass spectrometry to dissect the pathways that turnover modified genomic cytosines and their involvement in cell fate determination and plasticity.