University of Ottawa
Drug resistance is a growing problem that is leading to setbacks in the fight against serious diseases. It is the main reason too many cancer therapies fail. But researchers at the Ottawa Institute of Systems Biology are discovering that resistance isn’t always permanent.
Assisting them in this effort is a young biochemist whose résumé would rival many with a Ph.D. Afnan Azizi has set out to show that sometimes this resistance is temporary—at least in the beginning—which could open new doors for treating cancer and eradicating superbugs.
Azizi’s bachelor’s thesis on a fast, affordable and accurate method for measuring virus concentrations was published in the highly cited journal Analytical Chemistry. He won the 2013 Julie Payette-NSERC Research Scholarship, has received the prestigious NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award three times, and was instrumental in helping his team win gold two years in a row at the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition.
Now, as the winner of a master’s level NSERC 2013 André Hamer Postgraduate Prize, Azizi is investigating how random fluctuations in the expression of genes can cause cells to become temporarily drug-resistant without mutations. The results will advance efforts to develop therapeutics that prevent this resistance from becoming permanent.