Alexandra Naba, Principal Investigator

Alexandra Naba is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an associate member of the University of Illinois Cancer Center.

Alexandra, a parisian native, received her Ph.D. from the Curie Institute in Paris, France where she studied the role of the membrane-cytoskeleton linker, ezrin, in normal and tumor cell adhesion in the laboratory of Daniel Louvard under the supervision of Dr. Monique Arpin. For her postdoctoral training, Alexandra joined the laboratory of Dr. Richard Hynes at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT where she led a project aimed at understanding the role of the extracellular matrix (ECM) in tumor progression. The ECM is a requirement and defining characteristic of metazoan life. A handful of ECM molecules are known to make critical contributions to disease processes, but technical limitations have prevented a comprehensive analysis of this critical family of proteins. At MIT, Alexandra overcame these barriers and developed novel proteomic and bioinformatic methods to study the molecular composition of the ECM, pioneering the field of "matrisomics". Her work demonstrated striking differences in the matrisome of tumors of different metastatic potential and showed that distinct sets of ECM proteins could predict metastatic potential of primary tumors. Furthermore, she found that the differentially expressed ECM proteins are required for metastasis in mouse models, presenting the opportunity for novel interventions in cancer. Her work also suggests that application of "matrisomics" techniques will provide novel insights for other diseases.

Alexandra published over 15 peer-reviewed publications, received numerous travel awards and invitations to speak and chair sessions at national and international conferences. She was awarded the 2012 JBC/Herb Tabor young investigator award for her seminal contributions to ECM biology. More recently, Alexandra founded the Matrisome Project, a website aimed at disseminating big data on the ECM and tools to facilitate ECM research. Alexandra serves since 2016 on the editorial board of Matrix Biology, and was elected in 2017 to the council of the American Society for Matrix Biology. Alexandra was awarded in 2018 the Junior Investigator award from the American Society for Matrix Biology (ASMB), and the Rupert Timpl award from the International Society for Matrix Biology (ISMB). She is also the recipient of the 2018 UIC - College of Medicine Rising Star award.

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