Blerta Xhemalce is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Texas at Austin. She did her PhD at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and her postdoctoral work at the University of Cambridge in the UK.
Blerta’s scientific career has focused on deciphering the roles of DNA, RNA and protein modifications in cellular functions relevant to tumorigenesis. Her interest in epigenetics started as an undergraduate researcher at the Necker Children’s Hospital in Paris when working on the Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, a childhood disorder caused by defects in the parental imprinting of chromosome 11p5. She further pursued these interests during her PhD by studying the role of protein sumoylation in genomic stability. During her post-doc, Blerta made important contributions to our understanding of chromatin modifications in gene expression regulation. Importantly, she spearheaded a new research direction by discovering a previously unexpected RNA methylation pathway in human cells. Since starting her own lab in September 2013, Blerta and her team have pursued a holistic research program, that on the one side capitalizes on her previous mechanistic expertise in chromatin and RNA modifications, and on the other hand explores new territories through technology development. Her lab’s ultimate goal is to identify and characterize novel "writers", "erasers" and "readers" of RNA modifications as potential therapeutic targets for cancer and metabolic diseases.