Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry
(RNA Biology, Amyloidogenesis, Neurological Diseases)
Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (Functional RNA and Cellular Stress)
Joined SFU in September 2016
Dr. Audas is interested in how cells respond to changes in their environment. Recently, he showed that a class of biological molecules – noncoding RNA – is essential to many of the stress response pathways used by cells to adapt to changing conditions. In particular, he discovered a noncoding RNA-mediated pathway that causes cellular proteins to clump (i.e., form amyloids) under stress conditions; he suspects that this pathway can go awry and lead to neurological disorders, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Could these diseases be activated by cellular stress events? The increasing incidence of neurological diseases motivates Dr. Audas to unravel how this pathway works and identify compounds that may cause or disassemble amyloids.
What life experiences led you to pursue a career in research?
Growing up I wanted to be a veterinarian. I worked part-time at an animal clinic and I had summer jobs at a local zoo. Eventually, I found it to be very repetitive and I realized I wasn’t excited about the career anymore. Around that time, I signed up for a fourth-year undergraduate Honours project at the University of Guelph and I discovered how science offers something new every day. I realized how interesting it is to investigate something that no one else has ever worked on.
What part of your research gives you the most satisfaction?
The best part is not knowing where your research will take you. Some of our recent work is a prime example. I worked on noncoding RNA but all of a sudden, I had to learn about amyloid aggregation, neurological disease, and cancer. Sometimes you get the results and they lead you into a completely different area of science. I find that you always need to keep an open mind, because you never know when you’re about to stumble upon something really incredible.