Dr Akshay Bhinge


Dr Akshay Bhinge

Research Fellow (UEMS), Living Systems Institute

‘I strongly believe that cross-disciplinary collaborations will be instrumental in fuelling innovations that will ultimately deliver therapies for human diseases.’

Biography:

Initially, I trained as a physician graduating with a MBBS degree from Mumbai, India. Realizing my interests lie in understanding how the human body operates at a cellular level, I attained a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. After a brief stint at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, developing algorithms for protein docking, I went for a Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin, USA where I worked in Dr. Vishwananth Iyer’s lab developing next-generation sequencing techniques to understand gene regulatory networks operating in human cells. After specialising in genomics, I joined the Genome Institute of Singapore, where I developed in vitro models of human neural development and disease using induced pluripotent stem cells.

Highlights of my career to date:

As part of my postdoctoral work, I uncovered a signaling pathway that drives motor neuron degeneration in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and, importantly, showed that pharmacological inhibition of this pathway reduces disease severity. Additionally, I have discovered a microRNA that plays a crucial role in early human neural development and patented a method to generate Illumina libraries from low input starting amounts of DNA.

My Ph.D. work, on analysing next generation sequencing data to identify sites of transcription factor binding across the genome, contributed towards securing USD 1 million in research funds as part of the ENCODE project. I am a recipient of the Career Development Award from A*STAR, Singapore, Patricia L. Johnston Endowed Fellowship, David Bruton, Jr. Graduate School Fellowship, and A.P. Bradie Endowed Fellowship from the University of Texas at Austin.

What excites me most about joining the LSI? 

The LSI offers the opportunity to work in close collaboration with experts from diverse academic backgrounds. I am excited to be a part of this venture. 

The research I will be undertaking in the LSI:

My aim is to understand the molecular mechanisms driving neurodegeneration associated with motor neuron diseases such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Spinal Muscular Atrophy with the goal of developing therapies to halt or reverse the degeneration. I will employ patient-derived pluripotent stem cells, genome-editing and directed differentiation in 2D and 3D cultures to develop physiologically relevant human models of disease. Genomic analysis of these in vitro models with complementary studies in transgenic animal models and human post-mortem tissue will be used to dissect the regulatory networks underlying neurodegeneration, thereby identifying viable candidate genes for therapeutic intervention. 

Something about me that you can’t Google! 

I enjoy classic rock and dabble with my electric guitar now and then (though my skills fall fairly short of my enthusiasm). I also practice martial arts as a means to stay fit.