Overview of research interests
Dr. Kaern’s primary research focus is on the cellular pathways that regulate gene expression in response to external signals and drug treatment, including mechanisms that can result in drug resistance without genetic mutations. The philosophy of the Kaern lab is that complex biological phenomena can often be explained, or predicted, using quantitative models reflecting the underlying biology. Such models play an essential role in many areas of life science because they can facilitate the development of hypotheses driving experimental investigations forward.
The Kaern lab is highly collaborative and integrates experimental (wet lab) and computational (dry lab) research. This provides a unique training environment that allows graduate students to gain experience in molecular biology and advanced genetic engineering, flow cytometry, timelapse microscopy, computer programming, analysis of complex data as well as biological systems modeling and simulation.
Training is also available to undergraduate students participating in the University of Ottawa International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) Program. This program provides a team of students the opportunity to complete a biotechnology or synthetic biology project over the summer and to present their work at an annual international conference held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Research in the Kaern lab specifically combines experimental and theoretical approaches to better understand variability in cellular responses to cancer and DNA damaging drugs, how transcriptional regulatory mechanisms can facilitate the development of non-genetic drug resistance and the construction and characterization of synthetic gene networks
Scientific breakthroughs / Impact
Major scientific accomplishments include the first evidence that the transcription of eukaryotic genes occurs in stochastic bursts, and the demonstration that such stochasticity can contribute to the development of drug resistance. Dr. Kaern’s research has also contributed significantly to the development of methods to determine how different genes interact with one another and how drug treatment affects these interactions.
Accomplishments and awards
NSERC Tier II Canada Research Chair (2004-2014), Early Research Award (2008-2013), Named to the “Top 50 People in the Capital” by Ottawa Life Magazine (2005
Research in the Kaern lab is funded by the Canadian Institute for Health Research and the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada.