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Ami Ashar-Patel named Keck Graduate Institute fellow

By Megan Bard

UMass Medical School Communications

April 21, 2017
  Ami Ashar

Ami Ashar-Patel

Ami Ashar-Patel, a PhD candidate, has been selected to participate in the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) Certificate in Bioscience Management Program. She received a KGI Burroughs Wellcome Fund scholarship and a UMass Medical School Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences career development grant.

Ashar-Patel studies preeclampsia, one of the leading causes of premature births that leads to more than 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths worldwide, mostly in developing countries, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation. Ashar-Patel works under the guidance of Melissa J. Moore, PhD, professor in the RNA Therapeutics Institute.

“She was a perfect fit for this program,” said James D. Sterling, PhD, Keck professor and director of the Postdoctoral Professional Master’s Program, which focuses on training PhD students with strong science backgrounds for careers in life sciences industry.

“The Certificate in Bioscience Management Program uses the Harvard Business Case Study based education method, which equipped me with greater understanding of the research, regulatory and business landscape of biotech/pharma industry," Ashar-Patel said.

Ashar-Patel studies a protein called soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase-1, or sFlt1, that is produced in excess by the placenta and is one of the causes of preeclampsia.

“This protein is generated by intronic polyadenylation (one of the steps in RNA processing or RNA maturation) of the Flt1 pre-mRNA. We are developing an RNAi-based silencing approach to reduce sFlt1 mRNA and treat women with preeclampsia,” Ashar-Patel said.

Her research is being done in collaboration with Anastasia Khvorova, PhD, professor in the RNA Therapeutics Institute, and S. Ananth Karumanchi, MD, professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School.

Additionally, Ashar-Patel uses an interdisciplinary approach combining molecular biology, next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics to further examine the role of RNA processing at a genome-wide scale in the placenta of preeclampsia patients.

“Post-graduation, I hope to apply the tools I gained from the PhD and the bioscience management program and integrate science, business and medicine to solve health care problems and benefit patients,” said Ashar-Patel.