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Annabelle Huang

Major:Biology (Physiology); Philosophy
Mentor:Dr. Hans-Peter Kiem, UW School of Medicine, Fred Hutch Clinical Research Division; Dr. Stefan Radtke, Fred Hutch Clinical Research Division

Current research project: Lentiviral Vector Stem-Cell Based Gene Therapy Treatments for Fanconi Anemia

Annabelle is a senior double majoring in biology with a focus in physiology and philosophy. She started in the Pallanck lab at UW Genome Sciences working in genetics and neuroscience in the fruit fly model, looking at how GBA, glucocerebrosidase, and the innate immune system are associated with Parkinson’s disease. She now researches at the Kiem lab at Fred Hutch developing clinically viable viral vector treatments using gene therapy with selective protection for Fanconi anemia in stem cell and mouse models. She is also involved in student-led development of medical diagnostics technologies, such as prototyping low-cost yet efficient LAMP assays for field research deployment.


Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Fanconi anemia (FA) is a serious genetic blood disorder characterized most commonly and most devastatingly by bone marrow failure (BMF), which occurs in at least 80% of patients as young as 15 years old, and the risk of BMF exceeds 90% for older patients. Current treatments for FA include repeated blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants, which are inconvenient, expensive, contains risk, and still leaves patients with a high risk for cancerous malignancies such as acute myeloid leukemia and squamous cell carcinoma. My work aims to develop and optimize an efficient and functional clinically viable vector for gene therapy in stem cells in a novel and promising way to create and deliver a working cure. It additionally looks to alleviate potential complications of genotoxicity and residual malignancies using therapeutic selective protection mechanisms, and together, form a very promising biotechnology that can also be applied to other treatments and cures for many different conditions.



When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved in undergraduate research in my freshman year after a previous biology teacher introduced me to academic research. I found the entire process very interesting and wanted to do more, so in my freshman year, I emailed different PIs in the URP EXPO database and joined the Pallanck lab, researching the genetic mechanisms behind the symptoms that characterize Parkinson’s disease.


What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
Research is a very, very large enterprise, and there is a lot of different types and topics of research. Explore all your different options and look at the different things possible – you never know what to find. Take your time to find something that interests you; there’s no need to rush. When joining a lab, contact previous undergraduates in the lab and ask about their experiences. It would be beneficial to find a good lab community and good mentorship. Importantly, have fun. I hope that it’s a positive, rewarding, and, enjoyable experience.