Megan Blewett, PhD, studied chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute, where she worked in the lab of Benjamin Cravatt. Her research focus is applying tools from the nascent field of chemical biology to problems in immunology, particularly in the area of autoimmunity. She is interested in identifying which self-lipids and proteins are recognized by the immune system in conditions such as type-1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS). Another area of research is elucidating the mechanism of action of a new oral MS therapy. Megan believes an understanding of chemistry is invaluable not only for drug development, but also for understanding the complex etiology of human diseases.
Dimethyl fumarate (DMF) is one of the most prescribed drugs for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), yet its mechanism of action has been poorly understood. For her PhD, Megan used a novel proteomic technology to study how DMF produces clinical benefit in MS patients. Megan discovered that DMF possesses immunosuppressive properties - a finding which may explain severe adverse events associated with the drug - and identified targets responsible for DMF’s efficacy. She is currently working to develop safer, more selective inhibitors of those targets for use as next-generation immunomodulatory drugs.
Megan has a long-standing interests in the etiology of central nervous system conditions, in particular autoimmune diseases. Towards this end, while in high school, Megan mapped the geographic distributions of diseases such as MS in order to identify possible environmental triggers. Megan delved deeper into the chemistry underlying autoimmune conditions when she worked at the Broad Institute the summer after her junior year in high school. For this research, she was awarded seventh place in the Intel Science Talent Search. In addition, using the results of her chemical and geostatistical analyses, Megan formulated several hypotheses about the chemical mechanisms underlying MS and published her thinking in two separate papers as sole author.
In her spare time, Megan enjoys training for marathons and developing websites for managing medical data. Megan has studied Mandarin Chinese since she was seven and is preparing for the HSK, the Chinese government’s test of language fluency.