New Investigator: Rene Opavsky, Ph.D.

January 20, 2016

Image with caption: Rene Opavsky, Ph.D.

Rene Opavsky, Ph.D.

This profile is part of a series to highlight the researchers who will be honored at a ceremony for UNMC's 2015 Scientist Laureate, Research Leadership, Distinguished Scientist and New Investigator Award recipients.

The New Investigator Award

New Investigator Awards go to outstanding UNMC scientists who in the past two years have secured their first funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense or other national sources. New Investigators also had to demonstrate scholarly activity such as publishing their research and/or presenting their findings at national conventions.

  • Name: Rene Opavsky, Ph.D.
  • Title: Assistant professor, Eppley Institute
  • Joined UNMC: 2008
  • Hometown: Zeliezovce, Slovakia

Research focus:
Hematologic malignancies.

Describe your research briefly in layman's terms.
We study the role of a chemical modification of DNA -- termed methylation -- in blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. DNA methylation is de-regulated in blood cancers and results in gene expression changes that promote their development.

How does your research contribute to science and/or health care? The primary focus of my research is to study chronic lymphocytic leukemia and peripheral T cell lymphomas -- two malignancies that have poor survival rates. Our laboratory found that two enzymes that are involved in DNA methylation have protective functions against the development of these malignancies. These enzymes regulate genes that may play a role in causing blood cancers. Using mouse models, we are trying to determine whether these genes can be used for anti-cancer therapies.

What is the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you, professional or personal?
I originally wanted to study organic chemistry at Comenius University in Bratislava, however the university was not admitting students into this program in 1986. My high school teacher advised me to apply to their biochemistry program instead. Biochemistry allowed me to become familiar with molecular biology and genetics and to start my training in cancer research.

List three things few people know about you.

  • My wife Jana and I love dogs. We have two yellow Labradors named appropriately based on appearances and personalities - Icy and Sunny.
  • I play chess on a competitive level, and I like fishing.
  • My son works for Amazon as a software development engineer.

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