I completed my Master’s degree in Biochemistry at Rhodes University (South Africa), and my research focused primarily on the role of molecular chaperones in the biology of Kaposi’s sarcoma associated herpesvirus (KSHV). I am passionate about KSHV research as it is the causative agent of cancers that are endemic in sub-Saharan Africa, where I am from. What drew me to my project is that it closely aligns with my research interests in KSHV and oncogenic virology, whilst offering the opportunity to explore them from a different angle and venture into RNA biology.
Non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) are critical regulators of gene expression, and their importance is emphasised as their altered expression is observed in many human diseases. Viruses have evolved ways to manipulate host ncRNAs to promote viral gene expression and modulate the host response to infection. My project investigates a novel mechanism utilised by viruses to dysregulate a recently identified group of ncRNA, termed tRFs. We also intend to elucidate how and why this emerging ncRNA species are altered by the virus and also determine if reversing this dysregulation can be used as a novel antiviral strategy.