Melissa Ruggiero is the Drug Metabolism and Disposition Highlighted Trainee Author for the November 2020 issue. Ms. Ruggiero is a pre-doctoral trainee in the Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutics at the University of Kansas Medical Center under the mentorship of Dr. Bruno Hagenbuch. The Drug Metabolism and Disposition article that earned her selection as a Highlighted Trainee Author is titled “Functional Consequences of Pravastatin Isomerization on OATP1B1 Mediated Transport” and is available at: https://doi.org/10.1124/dmd.120.000122
Ms. Ruggiero’s PhD research focuses on hepatic transporters and understanding the impact of protein variants on endo and xenobiotic disposition. In particular, she is focused on the identification and characterization of rheostat positions within an integral transmembrane transporter, the Na+/taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide (NTCP). Rheostat positions are locations in proteins where mutational replacement from one amino acid to other amino acids result in intermediate alteration in function rather than a complete loss of function (toggle position) or no effect (neutral position). Current computer algorithms are unable to accurately predict rheostat positions making them elusive in the clinic.
With increased interest and use of personalized or precision medicine, it is becoming more important to improve prediction methods to accurately anticipate a mutation’s impact on protein function and therefore the patient’s response to drug therapies. Ms. Ruggiero’s research, in collaboration with biochemists and computational biologists, is aimed at bridging the gap between computer predictions and the actual functional outcome by characterizing these unpredictable locations. By understanding these locations, a new set of rules for prediction algorithms can be formulated and ultimately enhance precision medicine.
When not in the lab, Melissa enjoys spending time with family, friends, and her dog Maverick, as well as camping, woodworking, and fishing. She was a member of the ASPET mentoring network in 2019, participates in several local mentoring opportunities, and hopes to inspire younger generations to pursue careers in science.