Firefly Frontiers Winner: Kevin Kim, PhD

Kevin Kim, PhD, is a research fellow in the Perrimon lab at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Kim is interested in understanding the function of microRNAs in angiogenesis in order to prevent tumor blood vessel formation and enhance circulation to ischemic tissues. Dr. Kim will use his Firefly Frontiers Grant to screen for microRNAs that act as feedback modulators in signaling networks.

What fascinates you most about microRNAs?

Ever since the discovery of the first miRNA, I’ve been fascinated with how such small non-coding RNAs play key roles in the regulation of gene expression in a wide range of biological processes such as cell cycle control, apoptosis and several developmental and physiological processes. I am very excited to be part of a field that involves pretty much every process that make up a living organism.

Where do you see the miRNA field headed in the next 5 years? What areas are most promising for breakthrough discoveries?

With the recent advances in technologies, I believe it will only improve our understanding of how microRNAs regulate different processes. This growing knowledge of microRNA regulations will hopefully clear up some of the outstanding questions and fill in gaps within different signaling pathways that have puzzled researchers for decades. Like all research, the main goal for microRNA research is to improve the quality of our lives. I think the next great breakthrough will come from microRNA based therapies that many labs and pharmaceutical companies are currently working on.

What is your biggest pain point when it comes to microRNA research?

I believe one of the fundamental questions in microRNA research concerns identifying the targets of microRNAs. While several target prediction algorithms are currently available, many fail to correctly identify true targets and often predict up to several hundred candidate targets for individual microRNA. Without targets, it is difficult to understand the true functions of these microRNAs.

What advantages does FirePlex® miRSelect bring to your research?

Unlike other resources currently out on the market, FirePlex® miRSelect offers us the ability to screen large number of samples with very quick turnaround time in a cost effective manner. With its ability to customize and profile specific microRNAs, we can quickly and reliably screen the microRNAs that are of interest to us. Also, FirePlex® miRSelect’s minimal sample handling and quick data analysis allows us to devote our time following up on our discoveries rather than spending our time troubleshooting or performing complex bioinformatics data analysis.