Dr. Anna Blakney
Nominated as Tier 2
Canada Research Chair

Awards and recognition

Dr. Anna Blakney nominated as Tier 2 Canada Research Chair

Dr. Anna Blakney – credit: Kai Jacobson

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Anna Blakney has been nominated as a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Nucleic Acid Bioengineering. An exciting accomplishment for an early career professor, Dr. Blakney will hold this award, which supports salary and research funding, for 5 years with the possibility for renewal. The Canada Research Chairs Program (CRCP) is central to a national strategy to make Canada one of the leading research and development countries in the world, investing approximately $311 million per year to attract and retain top scientists. Nominated chairholders are renowned experts in their fields helping to teach and train the next generation of scientific leaders at our universities.  

Dr. Blakney (she/her) holds a joint appointment with the Michael Smith Laboratories and UBC’s School of Biomedical Engineering. Her research program is currently working at the forefront of RNA technology exploration and application. 

“My lab works on developing next-generation RNA vaccines and therapies. We’re interested in understanding more about the interactions between RNA, nanoparticles and the immune system so that we can then engineer better RNA medicines,” explains Blakney. 

During her PhD, Dr. Blakney was part of a team that developed a self-amplifying RNA vaccine for COVID-19. Breakthroughs in healthcare applications like this were built on decades of research by a community of passionate scientists and the COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to drive innovation forward. 

“It has been such an exciting time to be in this field working with mRNA, it’s evolved and changed so much. But I think there are still significant improvements that can be made to tackle the side effects and tolerability of mRNA vaccines. I’m especially excited about the other creative applications of mRNA technology, I think that’s where the true potential lies,” Blakney reflects. 

Moving beyond COVID-19 treatment and prevention, Dr. Blakney’s lab is exploring applications for mRNA technology for use as a treatment for ovarian cancer. The potential to make significant inroads for the treatment of many other diseases is inspiring. And the democratization of healthcare is a real benefit of using RNA therapies as these treatments are faster and easier to manufacture than other current treatments, making them more accessible to many. Dr. Blakney is particularly excited by this aspect of her work with possible cancer treatments. Creating more equitable RNA therapies could replace expensive oncology treatments that are out of reach for many. 

“If you can make therapies that are really effective, but also really inexpensive to produce, theoretically you’re opening the door for many more patients,” says Blakney. 

Joining the ranks of other Canada Research Chair holders is an accomplishment Dr. Blakney is most humbled by. 

“I have an enormous amount of respect for the scientists holding CRCs and I’m really inspired by their research. I feel very honoured to receive this recognition and join this cohort of leaders in their various fields. This nomination motivates me to continue being creative and innovative in our work,” Blakney says. 

Along with Dr. Blakney, we are inspired by the incredible work of the CRCs across Canada working to improve human and planetary health. We wholeheartedly congratulate Dr. Blakney on her award and look forward to seeing what exciting directions her innovative research will take next. 

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