Blue Devil of the Week: Rising Star Amanda Hargrove

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Duke Associate Professor of Chemistry Amanda Hargrove tries to find new ways to fight cancers and viruses. (Photo by Stephen Schramm)

Blue Devil of the Week: Friend to Students, Enemy of Disease

Amanda Hargrove searches for ways to defeat cancer and viruses while working to inspire future scientists. She was recently honored with the 2022 Rising Star Award from the American Chemical Society.

Name: Amanda Hargrove

Position: Associate Professor of Chemistry

Years at Duke: 8

What she does at Duke: In her role as a researcher, Amanda Hargrove, a 2020 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowand an American Chemical Society 2022 Rising Star Award winner, heads a lab that studies a specific type of RNA molecule and its potential role in breakthrough therapies.

In every cell, ribonucleic acid, or RNA, plays a critical role in carrying genetic information and directing the formation of proteins. But not all of the RNA molecules do this. The RNA molecules that aren’t involved in these processes – what scientists call “non-coding RNA” – were once thought to be fairly inconsequential. But in recent years, researchers have discovered that these molecules are involved in the process that allows cancer and viruses to spread.

Hargrove’s lab is studying ways to disrupt the function of this type of RNA and, potentially, find therapies that can better fight cancer and protect against viruses, such as the agent behind Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease and COVID-19.

“The idea is that, maybe the reason we don’t have as many cancer drugs as we’d like is that we’ve been going after the wrong class of molecules,” Hargrove said.