Center for Integrative Biology | U Mayor

Chilean scientist was recognized as one of the best researchers in Australia



Dr. Eduardo Albornoz, who is an associate researcher at the U. Mayor Center for Integrative Biology, is doing a post-doctorate at the University of Queensland, where he is working on possible therapeutic targets to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Thus, a few days ago he was named among the four "best emerging health researchers" of 2020 in that country.

Eduardo Albornoz does not like the treatment of "Dr." nor is it that struggle of "egos" which he has had to face many times in his career as a scientist. However, at 36 years old and with a career focused on stopping the development of neurodegenerative diseases, it is a title more than earned, to the point that today he is one of the best researchers in Australia, the country where he has resided since he did his doctorate in 2014.

A week ago, the Chilean received the "Bupa Health Foundation 2020 Emerging Health Researcher Award", awarded only to the "brightest" scientists who stand out for their careers and the tangible impact their work has on health of the community.

“Science is not easy, it is a lot of love for art. In this type of work you have to deal with many episodes of frustration. I would say that 90% of the things that you do in the laboratory do not work, but you have to persevere and continue. This award, without a doubt, is a motivation to continue and you realize that you are on the right path ”, says Eduardo

In love with science

The researcher, a native of Lonquén, Talagante commune, began his career when he entered the University Andrés Bello to study Biochemistry. And although it was his second option after Medicine, he was enchanted with it and decided not to change

I fell in love with research and science along the way. To be honest, being a scientist was not promoted much at school, so it was something I discovered over time, "he says.

University of Queensland: His New Home
After several months of analysis on where to go, in 2014 the scientist received the scholarship for outstanding international students at the University of Queensland, Australia, to do a doctorate at the Institute of Molecular Biosciences (IMB).

In this context, he affirms that "he was lucky". This, because just before applying, the laboratory in which he did his doctorate, validated and published in the journal "Nature Medicine" a new drug, MCC950, which acts on the innate immune system, by inhibiting the inflammasome, becoming in an excellent candidate to stop inflammatory processes in the brain. That is why they also paid attention to his CV and this ended up becoming his doctoral project.

"I was offered to test this new drug in Parkinson's models and the results were impressive. We not only validated this new therapeutic target in humans, but we were able to stop the progression of neurodegeneration (cell death) in preclinical models. This validates NLRP3 as a pharmacological therapeutic target for Parkinson's disease ”, explains the Chilean.

In addition, he says that he identified a possible biomarker that could revolutionize the field of neurodegenerative diseases. This type of discoveries has allowed it to be awarded different Australian and international funds to continue its investigations, including one from the Michael J Fox Foundation.

After finishing his Ph.D. in 2019, he continued his post-doctoral studies, in the neuroinflammation laboratory of the School of Biomedical Sciences of the same university, focusing on testing new drugs in preclinical models and understanding the role of peripheral innate immunity in neurodegenerative diseases, including motor neuron disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), Huntington and Parkinson's disease.

In addition, in the context of the pandemic, he is investigating the role of viral infections such as SARS-Cov2 in activating inflammatory processes in the brain, which could trigger neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's.

“My dream has always been that my work in the laboratory has a global impact and in some way be a contribution to knowledge and medicine. It is satisfying that the effort of so many years is beginning to bear fruit. I believe that if the clinical trials are successful, we could change the history of neurodegenerative diseases and help many people who suffer from these disabling diseases, so that they have a better quality of life ”, he says.

How did he arrive to U. Mayor

Dr. Paola Murgas from CIB U. Mayor (who appears in the photo) contacted Eduardo after reading an article about his work in Heureka magazine. This is how they met and when the researcher traveled to Australia they created ties between the two universities. This included the signing of an agreement that allows them to work and publish together, in addition to making exchanges

“This experience has been great. I always had that bitter feeling of not being able to contribute to my country being so far away. But thanks to this link with the U. Mayor, I found a way to give back to Chile from a distance ”, says Albornoz.

And although the scientist acknowledges that it has not been easy to be away from his family, and that he regrets having missed the birth of his first niece, he does not plan to return to Chile.
Today, with an Australian residence, he has already begun to build a life with his Brazilian partner from the other side of the world, from where he will continue his investigative work to change the course of this type of disease.


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