Session 8 – Lipid Biomarker


Lipidomic-Based Insights into Disease Mechanisms: A Targeted Lipidomics Discovery Pipeline for Network Analysis

Dr. Irina Alecu earned a Master of Biotechnology from the University of Toronto and a doctorate in Lipid Biochemistry as part of the Integrative Molecular Medicine Program at the University of Zurich under the supervision of Prof. Thorsten Hornemann and Prof. Arnold von Eckardstein. In her doctoral work, Dr. Alecu discovered previously unidentified lipids and elucidated a novel metabolic pathway of 1-deoxysphingolipids, toxic lipids which were thought to be dead-end metabolites. Dr. Alecu did subsequent postdoctoral work at the Neural Regeneration Laboratory at the University of Ottawa with Prof. Steffany Bennett, where she investigated changes in the plasma lipidome associated with cognitive reserve or with the onset of cognitive decline in an Alzheimer’s-disease mouse model and at the Center for Brain Science at the RIKEN Institute in Japan with Prof. Yoshio Hirabayashi where she investigated the molecular structure of a newly discovered glycosphingolipid. Dr. Alecu is currently the Team Lead of the Discovery Research and Target Research programs of the India Taylor Lipidomics Platform and Neural Regeneration Laboratory at the University of Ottawa.

Dr. Alecu’s current research focuses on using and developing novel LC-MS methods to understand the mechanistic role played by lipids in neurodegenerative diseases. She is developing diagnostic and prognostic mass spectrometry panels wherein the lipidome can be used to predict susceptibility and resistance to devastating neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Currently Dr. Alecu is leading a collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada, building artificial intelligence-driven algorithms that exploit lipidomic datasets to build networks and models that predict disease progression and outcome, particularly as related to the impact of SARS-CoV2 infection on dementia risk in elderly survivors. Dr. Alecu has received a number of international grants to fund her work and has been nominated for the prestigious John Charles Polanyi Prize which recognizes outstanding early career researchers in Physiology or Medicine.