Alexander (Sasha) Kagansky
Chancellor’s Fellow at the MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine at The University of Edinburgh
Invited Talk Title: Why Biodiversity is crucial for Biomedicine and vice versa?
A discussion about molecular role of the genetic and chemical diversity on our planet and links of the biodiversity to human health with the examples and implications in epigenetics and cancer.
We observe a sharp decline in biodiversity since modern extinction rates are high, at 100 to 1000 times greater than background extinction rates calculated over the eras. Though new species appear, however, existing species go extinct at a rate 1000 times that of species formation. The biodiversity loss will alter the ecosystem functions and their ability to provide goods and services for the human health and wellbeing. More importantly, the irreversible loss of traditional medicine and metabolites diversity concomitant with the extinction of microbes, plants, fungi and animals will threaten the scientific discoveries for medicinal purposes. Despite all efforts to include biodiversity protection within the international agendas, developing countries, the home of most of the world’s biodiversity, are rapidly losing their biodiversity heritage. Here we argue that biodiversity is also the key for maintaining public health as well as the success of global drug discovery efforts. Despite scientific or technical “improvements” and managerial “process optimisation“, drug discovery was more productive in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, when many of the methodologies that are now widely applied had not been invented and when other R&D approaches were dominant. In particular, most early successful blockbuster drugs were derived from phenotypic screening rather than target-based drug discovery. Our phenotype based screening of various natural extracts using patient derived cell lines are pointing to the multitude of the anti-cancer molecules, which promise to solve cancer problems, provided conservation and research of the host species. We aim to create an interdisciplinary knowledge hub to connect conservation, medical chemistry, public health data, traditional medicine, etc. to facilitate global efforts in preserving natural bio- and chemodiversity.
Alexander (Sasha) Kagansky is a Chancellor’s Fellow at the MRC Human Genetics Unit, MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine at The University of Edinburgh, and leads the research at the Synthetic Epigenetics Lab, Chromosomes and Gene Expression Section of the IGMM.
In 2005 – 2012, Sasha worked at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology, University of Edinburgh, as a postdoctoral research associate (Robin Allshire lab, until 2010) and then as senior research associate (Bill Earnshaw lab). Research in his lab is aimed at the understanding of the molecular basis of the epigenetic transitions of the mammalian genomes, and at finding ways to control these transitions, which will be crucial for the future of molecular medicine. In his studies he combines genetics, synthetic biology, biochemistry and proteomics. He received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology in 2004 after spending 3 years in National Institutes of Health in USA. In 1998 he got his MS in Biophysics from from St.Petersburg State Polytechnical University in Russia.
Apart from the research in the lab, Sasha Kagansky regularly organizes public engagement of science activities for different target groups – artists, primary school kids, and general public – in different parts of the world, which result in new collaborations between scientists and artists.
He is also a member of Young Academy of Scotland and Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and the Law.
Doctor of Science, National Institutes of Health, USA / Master in Science, St. Petersburg Polytechnical University, Russia
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