Biophysical Society of Canada recognizes Dr. Trushar Patel with 2021 Young Investigator Award

University of Lethbridge associate professor Dr. Trushar Patel (chemistry & biochemistry), an emerging leader in the biophysical characterization of viral nucleic acids, has been named winner of the 2021 Biophysical Society of Canada Young Investigator Award.

Patel, who came to the U of L in 2016 as an independent researcher, earned a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in RNA and Protein Biophysics in November 2017. His lab, based out of the Alberta RNA Research and Training Institute (ARRTI), has earned extensive funding support in recent years as it investigates a variety of viral diseases covering everything from Hepatitis B to COVID-19.

“I am thrilled to receive this award, as it demonstrates the impact of my research activities that intersect various scientific disciplines,” says Patel.

Patel’s research focus is to obtain detailed insights into how viral nucleic acids interact with host proteins by employing interdisciplinary approaches. Information on the specific sites of host proteins that communicate with viral nucleic acids will ultimately allow the development of therapeutics that prevent host-viral communication. These interactions are essential for the survival and replication of a virus — stopping the interactions thereby assist in treating a viral infection.

“Curiosity-driven research often lays the foundation for translational work,” says Patel. “We hope that our work on viral-host communication will provide insights to deal with viral infections.”

Patel graduated with BSc (2000) and MSc (2002) degrees in biotechnology from India. He joined the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom for his PhD (2007) where he studied solution structure and interactions of plant polysaccharides. Subsequently, he joined the University of Manitoba, where he studied structures of human extracellular matrix proteins. He also started working with RNA molecules during the later stages of his postdoctoral studies. His work was supported by postdoctoral fellowships from the Manitoba Institute of Child Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). He was then successful in receiving the Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowship (2013) by the European Union to work on a research program aimed at establishing the structure-function relationships of zyxin, a human cytoskeleton protein, at the University of Birmingham, UK.

Patel has published 79 peer-reviewed articles, 25 editorials and has served as a guest editor for four special volumes. He is also one of the editors of the European Biophysics Journal. He has been very active in training the next generation of researchers, as well as with scientific and science-policy-related conference organizing activities.

“I have been very fortunate to receive extraordinary training and support from my mentors. It is my turn now to train the next-generation researchers with the skills they require for their future careers in academia, and industry.”