Keith T. Gagnon, Ph.D.


I obtained a BS in Biochemistry from North Carolina State University (2000-2003). For my PhD, I trained as an RNA biochemist under the direction of Dr. E. Stuart Maxwell at North Carolina State University (2003-2007). I learned classic biochemical techniques and studied the RNA-protein interactions and structure-function relationships within RNA-guided box C/D small nucleolar ribonucleoproteins. This included mutagenesis, RNA structure mapping, protein engineering, enzyme catalysis, and site-specific RNA labeling.

I performed postdoctoral research at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas under the direction of Dr. David R. Corey, primarily as an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein Fellow (2008-2014). During my postdoctoral tenure I characterized mechanisms of nuclear RNA interference (RNAi), with an emphasis on identifying the necessary cellular machinery and potential for therapeutic application. I also investigated siRNAs and antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) as potential therapeutic modalities for repeat expansion disorders, including Huntington’s disease (HD), spinocerebellar ataxia 3 (SCA3), and C9ORF72-associated frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (C9FTD/ALS), by directly targeting the repeat expansion itself.

I started my independent faculty career at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Carbondale (2014-present). My laboratory investigates two areas: neurological repeat expansion disorders and RNA-guided enzymes. For repeat expansion disorders, we have focused on molecular disease mechanisms, models and therapeutic strategies for the C9FTD/ALS repeat expansion disease. For RNA-guided enzymes, we have focused on the design, development, and control of CRISPR-based proteins for therapeutic applications, including chemical modification and RNA-protein engineering.


  • Southern Illinois University School of Medicine