Undergraduate Research and Creativity Alumni Profiles 

Brian Grabiner, B.S. '02

Senior Scientist, Biogen
Major(s): Biology 

What research or work have you done since graduating from Buffalo State?

After graduating from Buffalo State in 2002, I joined the laboratory of Dr. Lee Ann Garrett-Sinha at the University at Buffalo where I worked as a research technician studying B cell biology for about a year. Following this, I enrolled as a Ph.D. student at UB in the IGPBS program, where I joined the laboratory of Dr. Xin Lin in 2003. Shortly after joining Dr. Lin's lab, he moved the lab to the University of Texas Health Science Center MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas where I ultimately completed my PhD in 2008. During my graduate training, I conducted my thesis on characterizing components of the NF-kappaB signaling pathway in the immune system, organismal development and cancer biology.

After completing my thesis, I joined the laboratory of Dr. David Sabatini at the Whitehead Institute within the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where I conducted my postdoctoral training period. In my time as a post-doc I conducted genome-wide RNAi and CRISPR screens to better understand the cellular response to the cancer therapeutic drug Rapamycin. I also demonstrated that some cancers acquire activating mutations in the Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) gene and are exquisitely sensitive to mTOR protein inhibition.

As I finished my postdoctoral training, I found that I was most interested in applied research with high translational relevance. Thus, in 2015, I joined the biotechnology company Biogen. In my time at Biogen, I have focused my research on understanding the mechanisms behind the genetic causes of neurodegenerative disease such as ALS and Alzheimer’s disease. At present, I am conducing genome-wide CRISPR screens in iPS-derived neurons to identify novel targets and de-convolute current small-molecules for these neurodegenerative diseases.

Can you translate your work for the general public?

Neurodegenerative diseases are among the leading causes of mortality and morbidity with little to no treatment. It is my sincere hope that through my research efforts, I can make an impact on these diseases.

Why did you decide to get involved in undergraduate research?

In my classes at Buff State, I found myself constantly intrigued to understand the reasons behind which particular biological phenomena occurred. Dr. Gregory Wadsworth encouraged my interests and helped me to obtain several undergraduate research fellowships, giving me the chance to conduct primary bench science.

How did your undergraduate research experience influence your career path?

Without my undergraduate research experience, I would not have pursued a career in research. My time in Dr. Wadsworth’s lab was instrumental in solidifying my love of scientific research and has served as a foundation for my professional career.

Describe the research you did and if you presented it at any professional conference, juried art exhibit, or other off-campus location.

While working with Dr. Gregory Wadsworth, I helped generate reagents needed to understand whether the soybean aspartate aminotransferase 2 gene (AAT2) harbored an alternate start codon. Under Dr. Wadsworth's guidance, I learned several key techniques that I still use to this day. I also presented my work at various Buffalo State-hosted conferences, but no other off-campus locations.

Undergraduate Research Mentor: Gregory Wadsworth