Student: Cindy Yimei Wan
Supervisor: Dr. Walid A. Houry, PhD, Professor in the Department of Biochemistry, University of Toronto
Cindy graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Science with high distinction in Spring 2021, completing a specialist in Biochemistry. During her undergraduate education, Cindy was a Dean’s List Scholar and received various academic awards from both Trinity College and the Faculty of Arts & Science, including The Chancellor’s Scholarships, the Daniel Wilson Award in Science, and the Amy Britton Award. Cindy also volunteered at Kensington Hospice and served as an executive in the Biochemistry Undergraduate Student Society.
In the summer of her second year, she began conducting research in the lab of Dr. Walid A. Houry. Her project focused on investigating the human R2TP chaperone complex and its interactions with a novel protein cofactor implicated in primary ciliogenesis, an essential process in which defects can lead to hydrocephalus, sinusitis, and male infertility. During this project, she identified a novel binding site for the interaction of R2TP with the cofactor and the development of functional primary cilia in retinal pigment epithelial cells. Later, she explored the possibility of identifying other chaperone interactors using a bioinformatics approach. She generated and annotated human chaperone complexes using R and Cytoscape based on published data from high-throughput protein-protein interaction screens. This project was supported by an NSERC USRA.
During her fourth year, she completed a fourth-year thesis project in Dr. Houry’s lab that focused on identifying new, broad-spectrum antivirals from an in-house drug library targeting host proteases and chaperones. She identified several promising candidates that were effective at inhibiting viral replication of multiple coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2.
Cindy is currently pursuing an MSc in Biochemistry at the University of Toronto, as a trainee in the labs of Dr. Julie Forman-Kay and Dr. Jonathon Ditlev. Her current project involves characterizing the organizational principles underlying CFTR membrane clusters. She hopes to further explore her interests in cellular homeostasis and human disease.