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April Darling

Education and Work

  • B.S. Cell and Molecular Biology, University of South Florida (2015)
  • M.S. Medical Science, University of South Florida, Morsani College of Medicine (2017)
  • PhD Molecular Medicine, University of South Florida, Morsani College of Medicine (2019)
  • Post-doctoral fellow, Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine (2021)
  • Senior Scientist, Lacerta Therapeutics (2023)

Research Summary

Many human diseases involve mutations in functionally relevant proteins or alterations in protein homeostasis. This is particularly pertinent for neurodegenerative diseases, but is ubiquitous in cancer and cardiovascular disease as well. Now imagine a future where we can precisely target and modify disease-causing proteins with highly stable molecules that are cost effective and easy to manufacture. Enter the world of artificially expanded genetic information system (AEGIS) aptamers - these DNA analogs are like molecular detectives armed with synthetic bases, designed to hone in and hang on tight to pathogenic proteins that contribute to disease.

My research focus is on identifying and characterizing AEGIS aptamers that target disease relevant proteins. Using intuitive engineering strategies, I hope to achieve desirable outcomes such as protein inactivation, targeted degradation, and specific cell and/or tissue localization in order to obtain positive disease modifying effects. Additionally, I am interested in identifying AEGIS aptamers that can target whole cells. This could pave the way for targeted delivery of therapeutic reagents or drug delivery systems to specific cell populations, bringing us one step closer to personalized medicine.

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