Catherine McKeen, PhD
How did you become interested in the field of oligonucleotides?
I have worked in the oligonucleotide sector since 1994. Initially I worked with Tom Brown in Oswel where I designed and synthesised phosphoramidites and modified supports for use in the synthesis of oligos. This gave me my first real insight into the application of oligos and particularly the need for a wide range of modifiers of high quality to enable the development of new technologies. In 1999 Eurogentec acquired Oswel and my role changed to Production / Operations Management. In these roles my exposure to and understanding of oligo based technologies increased. It is at this point that I became more interested in oligonucleotide based therapeutics and particularly the problem of cellular uptake and delivery. As such at Link we have developed a range of reagents for this application.
Who were your early mentors?
Tom Brown (Oswel)
Marc Lemaitre (Eurogentec)
How did you become involved in OTS? & Why do you continue to support the OTS?
I first attended the OTS in 2010 as part of my then role as Product Manager at Link. I found, and continue to find, the scientific content to be exciting and highly informative. Unlike more commercially focused meetings I find this an excellent forum for scientific discussions and to initiate collaborations.
What is special about the type of research/work you’ve done?
At Link we have started to look at vitamins as a potential means of improving cellular uptake. While this in itself is not new, it is our belief that it may be possible to target a cell using a combination of vitamins on the oligo therapeutic. We have started to make some vitamin based amidites, namely niacin and pyridoxine. In themselves, these are not sufficiently hydrophobic to act in a similar manner to e.g. tocopherol, cholesterol, therefore any enhanced uptake cannot come from this type of interaction. It is our thinking that in this case, these small vitamins are internalised by cells.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Photography with my niece and sister and swimming.
Any other fun facts/tidbits you’d like us to know?
During my youth, I have fallen off the top of a slide, down a hole and 30ft down the side of a mountain with no broken bones.