Henry Pan, PhD, grew up in Michigan, where he completed his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at Michigan State University. He then pursued a PhD in chemical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied how the structure of different hereditary mutants of amyloid-beta protein aggregates formed in the lab under different conditions would affect their toxicity in model cell lines. This research led to insights about which conditions generate filament aggregates that better represent versions found in brain extracts from Alzheimer's disease patients. It also showed that preexisting hereditary mutant filaments could act as ""seeds"" that drive surrounding amyloid-beta proteins to form filaments with similar structures and toxicity profiles in cells.
After earning his doctorate in chemical engineering, Dr. Pan joined the DeGrado, Condello, and Southworth labs at the University of California, San Francisco, to systematically test the current biological systems used to model tau diseases for drug design. Their aim is to benchmark the ability of these models to replicate protein aggregates that share structure and disease propagation features with the human versions. Using a combination of fluorescent fingerprinting and cryogenic electron microscopy, Dr. Pan hopes to bridge the current gap between patient-derived aggregates and aggregates observed in biological models, with the aim of honing drug development efforts for curing tau protein aggregate–related diseases.