Sonia Vallabh, Ph.D.
Sonia Vallabh is a Ph.D. student in the Schreiber lab at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Her long-term research goal is to facilitate the development of therapeutics for human prion diseases. Prion diseases are rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disorders triggered by a protein misfolding event in the brain. At present, these diseases are untreatable and typically fatal within the first year that symptoms develop. Vallabh's current projects center around the development of systems to model prion disease in the laboratory and assays to discover small molecules with anti-prion properties. She is also interested in identifying biomarkers to track the progression of prion disease in living patients.
In late 2011, when Vallabh was working in consulting, she learned that she carries the genetic mutation that caused her mother to abruptly develop and die of prion disease the year before. Along with her husband, Eric Minikel, Vallabh changed careers to train in the biomedical sciences. She worked for two years with induced pluripotent stem cell models of Huntington's disease at Massachusetts General Hospital before joining the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program at Harvard Medical School. Vallabh earned a B.A. in English literature from Swarthmore College and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.