Visitor of the Week: Thushara Madanayake


Meet Thushara Madanayake of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center Research institute. The Sri Lankan national is a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Timothy Robinson’s lab. He travelled to New York to take part in his first meeting at CSHL: Eukaryotic mRNA Processing; and Thushara was among the ~120 poster presenters at the biennial meeting. His poster presentation was on “A novel approach to inhibit Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) signaling through Splice Switching Oligonucleotides (SSOs)”.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I am interested in gene expression regulation and in this lab we are studying to identify novel therapeutics for non-small cell lung cancer. We are targeting a key oncogene—EGFR—using RNA based technology.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
Alternative mRNA splicing is a critical and an underappreciated factor in cancer. The use of splice switching oligos (SSO) for spinal muscular atrophy to manipulate the aberrant splicing was recently approved. We are using this novel therapy in our research as a way to side step the resistance from drugs that have been approved for certain lung cancers. 

How did your scientific journey begin?
In high school, I found my zoology teacher very inspirational at teaching, especially genetics. After learning the basics of genetics from my teacher, I always had it in my mind that I wanted to become a genetic engineer. After following the traditional science pathway in my home country of Sri Lanka, I was selected to pursue my PhD in the US. Since then, I have been actively involved in the gene regulation research field.

Was there something specific about the Eukaryotic mRNA Processing Meeting that drew you to attend?
I was interested in the meeting’s title Eukaryotic mRNA processing, which is a highly-focused theme for our research.

What is your key takeaway from the meeting?
This is a well-organized event that is very focused on the theme. Also, we met contacts who are working in the related field. Hopefully a future collaboration with them can develop.

If someone curious in attending this meeting asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
If you want to form collaborations and learn some science, go for it.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
Food has been great and a nice variety.

Thank you to Thushara for being this week's featured visitor. To meet other featured scientists - and discover the wide range of science that takes part in a CSHL meeting or course - go here.