Interview with Danica Fujimori

Q: What do you do in your work? 

A: I work on the identification of new potential drug targets. What we do is aimed at determining the context in which these proteins can serve as drug targets and identifying small molecules that could act to stop this pathogenic protein from acting in a way to cause the disease. 

Q: What’s your favorite part about being a scientist?

A: The excitement of discovery, for sure. Learning something that no one had ever known before. It’s a fantastic feeling to find a solution and think “oh my gosh, I would’ve never imagined. It doesn’t happen often enough. You have these moments not as frequently as you want, so it takes patience, persistence and lots of hard work. 

Q: What have you created or discovered that you are most proud of?

A: There are a couple of directions that are super exciting to me. There’s the identification of small molecule inhibitors of a set of oncogenic proteins that modify our epigenome. So it’s a new and not-well-mapped area of drug discovery.

Another area in the lab that we are very keen to solve is antibiotic resistance. It’s a huge problem, not only in developing it, but the availability of drugs to treat resistant infections is limited. In the developed world there are more and more reports of clinical acquired infections that are resistant to any of the existing treatments. We work on the pathway that is central to this problem and we look at how we can prevent it from happening and make the existing antibiotics act on these highly resistant pathogenic organisms. 

Q: At the end of the day, why does your work matter?

A: Because our ultimate drive is to improve human lives. We feel that we are on direct path to identify the processes that we can inhibit to prevent transformations. That is why we feel the passion to help, through basic science, with solving problems that patients currently face. 

Q: Outside of work, what do you do to relax?

A: I hang out with my kids. I have two, 7 and 5 years old. They are awesome. I spend most of my time with them and their interests. Lots of sports and ballet. It’s essential to take a break and it’s good to have an outlet from it. 

Q: What situation do you think you’d feel the most out-of-place in?

A: Dancing is one of the things I wouldn’t like to do. I love to watch my little dancer, but not necessarily to participate. 

Q: In 100 years, what do you want to be remembered for?

A: Uncovering an unknown biology and ways to modulate it. Being a good mom...most importantly.

Journalism credit: Alexa Rocourt