Daniela Billi


foto_Daniela Billi Daniela Billi
Department of Biology
Tel: +39 06 72594341
Lab: +39 06 72594331
Fax: +39+06 2023500



DB graduated in Biology with honors in Biological Sciences at “La Sapienza” University of Rome. From 2000 to 2016 she was researcher at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata” and from 2016 Associate Professor in Botany. In 2012 she obtained the National Scientific Qualification as full professor in Botany. In 1996 she received a Ph.D. degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology and in 1999 a Specialist certificate in Biotechnological Applications, both from the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”. From 1997 to 1998 she was Visiting Scientist at the Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL, USA) and from 1998 to 2000 Research Associate at Virginia Tech Center for Genomics (Blacksburg, VA, USA). Since 2003 she is Faculty member of the Ph.D. program in Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”. She is currently member of the working group on Bio-regenerative Systems and of the Astrobiology Committee of the Italian Space Agency. She has been elected for the period 2016-2019 Councillor of the European Astrobiology Network. From 2018 she is co-chair of the Astrobiology Topical Team of the European Space Agency. She is author of over 40 publications on international refereed journals and over 100 scientific oral contributions at international conferences. Her papers have been cited over 2939 times and her h-index is 28 (Google scholar).


Research Activity

Her research activity is directed towards the cellular and molecular biology of cyanobacteria from extreme environments, mainly from hot and cold deserts, with the aim to decipher the basis of their adaptation to extreme conditions on Earth and endurance under space and Martian simulated conditions. She is leading experiments on cyanobacterial exposure to low Earth orbit conditions outside the International Space Station (EXPOSE-R2 mission) in order to investigate the endurance of life, identify biosignatures to search for past or extant life on Mars. Research deals also with the use of cyanobacteria to develop life-support systems for human outposts on the Moon and Mars. Since 2015 she has the intellectual and scientific responsibility of about 200 cyanobactaerial of the genus Chroococcidiopsis isolated from hot and cold deserts, part of the Culture Collection of Microorganisms from Extreme Environments (CCMEE) established by E. Imre Friedmann.

Professional Memberships

1996 – Italian Botanical Society
2008 – Italian Society of Astrobiology
2008 – European Astrobiology Network Association
2013 – Member of the Executive Council of European Astrobiology Network Association

Active Research Programs

  • Italian Space Agency: BIO-SIgnatures and habitable Niches (BIOSIGN-Cyano; € 163,601; PI)
  • Italian Space Agency: Vita nello spazio – Origine, Presenza, Persistenza della vita nello Spazio, dalle molecole agli estremofili (OPPS; € 145,000; Local PI)
  • NationalAntarctic Research Program: MIcrobial Diversity within the Vicinity of the Concordia Antarctic Station (MIDAS; € 66,050; Coordinator)


Selected Publications

  • Baqué, E. Viaggiu, G. Scalzi, D. Billi: Endurance of the endolithic desert cyanobacterium Chroococcidiopsis under UVC radiation. Extremophiles, 2013 17, 161-169
  • Baqué, G. Scalzi, E. Rabbow, P. Rettberg, D. Billi: Biofilm and planktonic lifestyles differently support the resistance of the desert cyanobacterium Chroococcidiopsis under space and Martian simulations. Orig Life Evol Biosph, 2013, 3, 377-89
  • Billi, M. Baqué, D.H. Smith, C.P. McKay: Cyanobacteria from extreme deserts to space. Adv Microbiol, 2013 3,80-86
  • Tashyreva, J. Elster, D. Billi: Multiparameter assessment of cell heterogeneity in Phormidium populations (Cyanobacteria) employing fluorescent dyes. PLoS ONE, 2013 8(2), e55283
  • D. Smith, M. Baqué, A.G. Duncan, C.R. Lloyd, C.P. McKay, D. Billi: Comparative analysis of cyanobacteria inhabiting rocks with different light transmittance in the Mojave Desert: a Mars terrestrial analogue. Int. J. Astrobiology, 2014 13, 271-277
  • Baqué, C. Verseux, E. Rabbow, J.P. de Vera, D. Billi: Detection of macromolecules in desert cyanobacteria mixed with a lunar mineral analogue after space simulations. Orig Life Evol Biosph, 2014, 44, 209–22
  • Verseux, I.G. Paulino-Lima, M. Baqué, D. Billi, L.J. Rothschild. Synthetic Biology for Space Exploration: Promises and Societal Implications. In: Ambivalences of Creating Life. Societal and Philosophical Dimensions of Synthetic Biology (eds Hagen K, Engelhard M, Toepfer G). Series Ethics of Science and Technology Assessment, Springer, Heidelberg, 2016, pp 73-100
  • Verseux, M. Baqué, K. Lehto, J.P. de Vera, L.J. Rothschild, D. Billi: Sustainable life support on Mars – the potential roles of cyanobacteria. Int J Astrobiology, 2016 15, 65-92
  • Claudi, M.S. Erculiani, G. Galletta, D. Billi, E. Pace, D. Schierano, E. Giro, M. D’Alessandro: Simulating super Earth atmospheres in the laboratory. Int J Astrobiology, 2016, 15, 35-44
  • Baqué, C. Verseux , U. Böttger, E. Rabbow, J.P. de Vera, D. Billi: Preservation of biomarkers from cyanobacteria mixed with Mars-like regolith under simulated Martian atmosphere and UV flux. Orig Life Evol Biosph, 2016 46, 289-310
  • Billi D, M. Baqué, C. Verseux, L.J. Rothschild, J.P. de Vera: Desert Cyanobacteria – Potential for Space and Earth applications. In: Adaption of Microbial Life to Environmental Extremes 2nd edition (eds Stan-Lotter H, Fendrihan F) Springer, 2017 pp 133-146
  • Moeller, M. Raguse, S. Leuko, T. Berger, C.E. Hellweg, A. Fujimori, R. Okayasu, G. Horneck, Y. Kawaguchi, S.I. Yokobori, A. Yamagishi, P. Rettberg, C. Verseux, M. Baqué, R. Cifariello, C. Fagliarone, D. Billi, et al.: STARLIFE -An international campaign to study the role of galactic cosmic radiation in astrobiological model systems” Astrobiology, 2017, 17, 101-109
  • Verseux, M. Baqué, R. Cifariello, C. Fagliarone, M. Raguse, R. Moeller, D. Billi: Evaluation of the resistance of Chroococcidiopsis spp. to sparsely and densely ionizing irradiation. Astrobiology, 2017, 17, 118-125
  • Cottin, J.M. Kotler, D. Billi, C. Cockell, R. Demets et al.: Space as a Tool for Astrobiology: review and recommendations for experimentations in Earth orbit and beyond. Space Sc Rev, 2017, 209, 83-181
  • Fagliarone, C Mosca, I. Ubaldi, C. Verseux, M. Baqué, A. Wilmotte and D. Billi: Avoidance of protein oxidation correlates with the desiccation and radiation resistance of hot and cold desert strains of the cyanobacterium Chroococcidiopsis. Extremophiles, 2017, 21, 981-991
  • Olsson-Francis, D. Billi, J.-P. de Vera, A. Teske: Habitability beyond Earth. Frontiers in Microbiology |Extreme Microbiology, 2018, in press
  • D. Billi: Desert cyanobacteria under space and planetary simulations: a tool for searching for life beyond Earth and supporting human space exploration. Int. J. Astrobiology (in press)


Teaching – link to Didattica Web

Past years

  • Molecular methods in Plant Cytology
  • Laboratory of Botany
  • Plant Citology
  • Plant Cell Bio-Imaging
  • Plant Evolution and Adaptation


  • Astrobiology (32 hours)
  • Synthetic Biology and Bio-Imaging (48 hours)