Christine Happel is a program officer in NCATS’ Office of Special Initiatives, where she oversees the NIH Common Fund’s Extracellular RNA Communication program, which aims to better understand extracellular RNA (exRNA) biology and the role exRNA plays in cell-to-cell communication. Key components of the program include discovering the fundamental biological principles of exRNA; identifying exRNA biomarkers of diseases; demonstrating the clinical utility of exRNAs as therapies; and supporting the development of exRNA resources, tools and technologies. Happel provides scientific and programmatic oversight and coordination for more than 10 teams involved in the program.
Prior to joining NCATS in 2019, Happel served as the assistant project director for the NIH AIDS Reagent Program. In that capacity, she assisted in managing a more-than-$30 million NIH-funded biorepository aimed at providing critical HIV research reagents to the scientific community. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University, focusing on microRNA-mediated regulation of gene expression in non-small cell lung cancer, for which she received an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship (Parent F32) from the National Cancer Institute (NCI); as well as a second NCI postdoctoral fellowship focusing on viral microRNA-mediated regulation of the host genome in Kaposi’s sarcoma, for which she was awarded an Intramural AIDS Research Fellowship.
Happel received her doctorate in molecular biology and genetics from the Temple University School of Medicine in 2009. Happel has authored 11 peer-reviewed manuscripts and two book chapters.
Happel’s research interests focus on understanding the underlying genetic and genomic regulation of cancer, with a particular focus on the role of non-coding RNA. Her primary goal is to harness this knowledge to diagnose and treat diseases earlier and more efficiently, leading to more personalized, targeted treatments.