Oct. 12, 2022
Contact: Deidra Ashley, email@example.com
University of Missouri student Leah Lepore has dreams of becoming a physician. On that career path, she would be responsible for prescribing medication to patients — a process Lepore wants to understand down to the molecular level. At Mizzou, the junior biochemistry major from St. Charles, Missouri, works at a drug startup company at the Bond Life Sciences Center — providing an impactful hands-on learning experience and a deeper understanding of the science behind medicine.
Get to know Lepore and her research.
Tell us about your research.
I work for a drug startup in the Bond Life Sciences Center under Chris Lorson, professor of veterinary pathobiology, and molecular microbiology and immunology. We’re working on a gene therapy for people affected by Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT).
CMT is a relatively rare disease that affects one in 2,500 people and is caused by an over expression of protein. Our gene therapy is designed to bind to the protein’s precursor, which is mRNA, in hopes to regulate it. Patients with CMT have limited dexterity and ability to balance as well as the deterioration of the muscles of the hands and feet. The overarching goal of the research is to alleviate their symptoms.
Why is research at Mizzou so special?
Knowing I wanted to get involved in research during college was an important factor for me in my decision making. Mizzou’s various research opportunities were among the main reasons I decided to come here. Since my end goal is to be a physician, I really wanted a university that was devoted to this kind of research — specifically the precursor to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, pre-clinical/clinical trials and bringing a new drug to market. I think that's what makes Mizzou unique: Every day I am seeing my impact on the grander scale of what I can do to make society better.
How did you get into research at Mizzou, and how are you sharing your passion for research?
The first step I took was to reach out to as many professors as possible. I knew what I wanted to do in a lab, and once I found a lab I enjoyed, I knew I wanted to share my passion for research with others. That's why I chose to be an ambassador for the Office of Undergraduate Research, which has been an incredible opportunity. I am also a peer learning assistant in the biochemistry department for the introduction to biochemistry lab, and I have enjoyed helping students achieve their potential. Cultivating passion for research in other students as well as informing them of all the things that you can do at Mizzou has been extremely rewarding.
How has your mentor helped you succeed?
Having Chris Lorson as a mentor has been an incredible experience. He is a highly esteemed researcher and has so much knowledge that he has shared to help me navigate the research process – knowing how to mitigate problems and a lot of critical thinking skills have spilled into my daily life.
If we could see Leah Lepore 10 years from now, where is she and what is she doing?
Hopefully, I will be a practicing physician. I am interested in neurology, and that passion has been enhanced based on the research I've done at Mizzou.
What I would really love, though, is to see the drug I’m working on with Dr. Lorson be FDA-approved and prescribed to patients who are suffering from CMT.