Scientist Spotlight: An Interview with Chris Daige, Director at Aeglea Biotherapeutics
- Briefly describe your background and current position?
I finished my undergrad degree at the University of Vermont before travelling out west to San Diego where I began my research career. From there I worked at X-Ceptor Therapeutics, Exelixis, Kalypsys, and Regulus Therapeutics over a 10 year span. Most of my efforts have been focused on utilizing pharmacology and molecular biology based techniques to elucidate mechanisms for nuclear receptor, GPCR, and small RNA metabolic disease and oncology indications. I relocated to Austin and for the last eight years I have worked at Mirna Therapeutics and Aeglea BioTherapuetics where we have focused on developing therapeutics for oncology and rare disease indications. Currently, I am the Director of Biology Research at Aeglea where I have worked for the last year and a half.
- How do you end up being a scientist?
I planned to go to medical school following my undergraduate education and was choosing from a handful of schools to enroll but decided that I didn't want to commit to the rest of my life before having some life experience first. So, my future wife and I decided to move to San Diego and I would try my hand at research. I never ended up going back to medical school but I have truly enjoyed growing as a research scientist and most enjoy helping to develop young researchers that have devoted themselves to research as a career.
- Briefly describe your role and responsibilities?
I was originally hired to set up a molecular biology and pharmacology based research lab but my role and responsibilities have evolved over time. Fortunately, I was able to bring a good deal of the staff that I worked with at Mirna to Aeglea, so the time required to set up the lab and research operations was greatly expedited. Six months ago I added management of our toxicology programs and scientific leadership of one of our pipeline programs to my responsibilities.
- What research you are conducting and what do you want to achieve?
At Aeglea, we have a number of research programs but our research lab has been primarily focused on the oncology application of lead arginine depleting enzyme, Pegzilarginase. We are exploring the effects of Pegzilarginase as a monotherapy in cancers that are auxotrophic for arginine and combinations with immuno-oncology agents.
- What has been your most important scientific finding?
In the third year of my career I was working on understanding the role that the Liver X Receptor, LXR, has on the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. I generated a triple KO mouse model that would allow us to understand the roles of the different sub-types of LXR (alpha and beta) in an atherogenic mouse model (LDLR KO). The data that we generated with this model changed the strategy for our therapeutic approach and, ultimately, a late stage (still in testing) clinical candidate for treating heart disease.
- What assay kits or bio-reagents you and your research team frequently use? What do you like most and why?
At Aeglea, we are conducting many experiments that utilize antibodies for flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry endpoints. We have a number of mechanisms that we are looking into so there is a demand for dozens of potential options.
- What is your next challenge?
The challenge of elucidating our mechanism of action for our oncology drugs is a continued challenge that I am certain BID can help us with. Additionally, we are focused on better establishing and advancing our pipeline programs in the years to come so there will multiple mutually beneficial opportunities for years to come.