• Ana Claudia Onuchic-Whitford, MD

    2023 Sharon Anderson Research Fellowship Award
    Ana Claudia Onuchic-Whitford, MD

    Ana Claudia Onuchic-Whitford, MD

    2023 Sharon Anderson Research Fellowship Award

    Institution: Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School

    Project Title: Allele-specific Expression in Proteinuric Kidney Disorders: Investigating a Novel Disease Mechanism

    How would you sum up your research in one sentence?

    My research aims to identify novel genomic mechanisms contributing to glomerular kidney disease by studying allelic expression imbalance (more expression from one gene copy than the other) occurring in kidneys of individuals with proteinuria. 

    What impact do you hope your research will have on patients?

    I hope that, by uncovering new mechanisms of gene regulation contributing to kidney disease, it becomes possible to provide molecular diagnoses for patients with familial kidney disorders of unclear etiology. I believe this could contribute to increased precision-based clinical kidney care and pave the way to future therapeutic strategies for genetic nephropathies. 

    What are your career goals at the end of the grant period? Five years out? Ten years out?

    At the end of the grant period, I aim to have completed the multiple steps of the study, made the results available to the scientific community, and established an independent lab. Five years out, I hope to be on a career development award, running a fully independent line of study, and growing my research group. Ten years out, I hope to have made significant contributions to the field of kidney genetics and glomerular disease, to have a stably funded lab, to support trainees and junior investigators, and to hopefully have witnessed advances in patient care resulting from our field's scientific progress.  

    What inspired you to focus your research in this area?

    In my life and training, I was struck by how genetics revolutionized medicine. After finding a clinical calling in nephrology, I became motivated to find missing diagnoses for patients with renal disease and decided to search for new genetic determinants of kidney disorders.

    What are the major challenges to beginning a career in nephrology research today?

    Funding, protected time, mentorship. When initiating a research career, grant funding is crucial to guarantee salary support and protected time for scientific growth – but funding can also be competitive and limited. The kidney is a complex organ and our field lags behind several others in different aspects of research, including incorporation of new technologies and therapy development. Overall, these points represent challenges but also opportunities, making mentorship pivotal in launching (and sustaining) a research career. I'm thankful for my mentors and for the key funding that I have received at an early stage of my career.

    What advice would you give to others to encourage them to apply for this grant funding?

    KidneyCure provides generous and prestigious funding with a straightforward application process. Although grant writing is notoriously challenging, it compels you to think more thoroughly about your research and career development. If not funded initially, KidneyCure grant reviewers' comments are detailed and very helpful in making your application stronger (as in my case) – perseverance is key. Overall, this is a valuable award that supports young researchers from a scientific, financial, and renal community standpoint.

    Something you may not know about me is…

    I love to sing and I play a few instruments. 

    In my free time I like to…

    Go on adventures with my two little boys, husband and extended family. Watch soccer (go Corinthians!). Cook Brazilian dishes. Plan nice surprises for friends and family.