In this new episode of OMG OMx, Kate Stumpo talks with Sapient’s Tanya Nguyen about the role of omics and mass spectrometry in neuroscience. Read selected highlights below, or watch the full podcast:
Tanya Gwen The OMG OMx Podcast | Ap. 10
Can you walk us through your omics background and how you came to embrace this field?
I am a clinical scientist by training, specializing in neuropsychology and brain-behavior relationships. For several years, I was a professor at UC San Diego, attending the University Medical Center. I was also a research faculty member and managed a clinical research lab focused on understanding biomarkers of neuroinflammation in the context of neuropsychiatric diseases.
My background is somewhat different from many of my peers omics area, providing me with a unique perspective on how we can apply omics to better treat clinical human diseases, and a clinical perspective on how this will impact patient lives and outcomes.
How has your time in the clinical space provided you with new insights into research?
One of the things I often felt was missing in my early preclinical research was understanding what was next. How does this work translate into clinical applications? How can I impact the lives of clinical patients? Perhaps it was because I was young and still a graduate with great aspirations. This led me to my Ph.D. and pursue a clinical degree.
My Ph.D. was in neuropsychology. This is a unique research and combined clinical degree, where I not only learned an important approach to conducting clinical biomedical research but also gained clinical licensure to evaluate and treat patients with the diseases I was researching.
During my clinical work, I focused on the assessment and treatment of older adults with a variety of mental illnesses. These primarily included major psychiatric disorders as well as advanced dementia syndromes.
As part of my clinical PhD research, I also worked on how to design and conduct randomized clinical trials for nutritional interventions. It is based on my undergraduate research on how to improve cognitive function in patients with various teratological disorders including prenatal alcohol exposure, autism spectrum disorders and others.
Image credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock.com
Is there an OMG moment that got you started on your path to science?
My “OMG” moment happened during my postdoctoral research. During that time, I became interested in the gut-brain axis. The microbiome was emerging in the scientific research community at this time. While widely studied in the context of GI illnesses, it is only making inroads in the field of neurodegenerative and neuropsychological diseases.
As a postdoc and an early career faculty member, much of my research focused on studying microbial-based biomarkers and how they contribute to the pro-inflammatory milieu observed in neuropsychiatric diseases. While studying these microbes, I thought it was important to understand the metabolomics, metabolites, and lipids that are produced by these bugs.
I aim to explore how these compounds affect downstream processes and interact with other risk factors and comorbid conditions that may be present in patients. This is when I started collaborating with our now co-founders at Sapient: Moe Jain, Jeremy Watrous and Tao Long.
How is mass spectrometry important in the broad omics field in which you specialize?
Mass spectrometry It plays an important role in various fields. Its functionality is a tool that can be applied to a variety of applications. I think that it is diagnostic of different diseases, and as mentioned earlier, spans different stages of drug development.
From early stages of discovery and understanding of mechanisms of action to target identification and validation, mass spectrometry proves invaluable. Its utility extends to more patient-oriented applications such as patient stratification and clinical trial enrichment.
That’s what excites me because I’ve always been more of a technology approach researcher. Although disease is important, my focus has always been on exploring how tools can be applied to better understand different diseases.
As a scientist, it’s been fun to expand my horizons and learn how different diseases work, how different interventions may vary for different populations, and being able to use the same tools to reach different conclusions.
about the speaker
Dr. Nguyen is a clinician-scientist with more than 13 years of research experience, having been principal investigator on several National Institutes of Health- and foundation-supported multi-site clinical trials. Dr. Nguyen’s work has facilitated multi-omics discovery in the context of human biosampling to uncover new biomarkers for disease diagnosis and treatment. Sapiente, Dr. Nguyen serves as a liaison between scientific, business and operational teams overseeing key customer relationships and partnerships.
omg OMx Host: Kate Stumpo, Senior Market Manager at Bruker
About Bruker Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry
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