Albertas Navickas, PhD

Written by: Anna Sherwood, PhD

Dr. Albertas Navickas is currently transitioning to a position as a junior PI at the Institut Curie in Orsay, France. Dr. Navickas obtained his PhD at the Institut de Biologie Physico Chimique in Paris, France in the lab of Lionel Benard. For his postdoctoral training, he moved to the United States, where he worked with Dr. Hani Goodarzi at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Dr. Navickas was awarded a prestigious Horizon Award by the US Department of Defense’s Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program.

Dr. Navickas is currently most excited about his recently completed project “that discovered an intricate crosstalk between RNA processing in the nucleus and translation in the context of cancer progression” ( He elaborates: “Initially, we were interested in understanding translational control mechanisms acting during breast cancer metastasis and performed genome-wide comparison of translation efficiencies using ribosome profiling in highly and poorly metastatic breast cancer cells. We found that a set of mRNAs, bound by a splicing regulator HNRNPC, were among the most translationally repressed transcripts in highly metastatic cells. At first, we were puzzled by how a splicing regulator from the nucleus could influence translation that is happening in the cytoplasm? We then discovered that in addition to its role in splicing, HNRNPC also acts in poly(A) site selection. When talking about the appeal of the Goodarzi lab for his postdoctoral experience, Dr, Navickas revealed that “the Goodarzi lab has a truly rare blend of skills in molecular, cancer and computational biology, all integrated to facilitate discoveries in RNA regulatory mechanisms underlying cancer progression. My time with Hani has been a very formative experience, both in designing high throughput and sequencing-based experiments to answer RNA-related questions and in addressing problems in cancer biology from a perspective of mechanisms of fundamental RNA biology”.

During his postdoctoral training, Dr. Navickas mentored and supervised “numerous rotation students, research assistants, and visiting scientists”. He further divulges: “This experience obviously taught me a lot, from learning to articulate my scientific ideas to building trust in junior colleagues and improving my strategies to work as a team. While it was initially challenging to be responsible for more than myself, I now see how this was a crucial training step preparing for my future position as a PI”.

“I am fascinated by multiple discoveries in the fields of RNA biology, cancer progression, and, lately, stem cell and organoid biology, and so naturally I admire the scientists behind these discoveries.”

Dr. Navickas’ current work focuses on “using hPSC-derived organoids to model cancer cell and metastatic niche interaction ex vivo”. He mentions: “My new research program is the continuation of my collaboration with the Fattahati lab at UCSF, where I implemented the differentiation of human lung organoids from hPSCs and started using the system for modeling tumor-metastatic niche interactions in a scalable ex vivo setting. All my work at the Goodarzi lab was focused on studying RNA regulatory mechanisms dysregulated in cancer cells during metastasis.. However, while I was increasingly getting interested in “the other side of metastasis”, i.e. the distant tissue cancer cells disseminate to, I realized how challenging if at all feasible were these techniques in animal models that are the golden standards of studying tumor-metastatic niche interaction. This is why I am implementing the organoid models to continue working on RNA regulatory mechanisms in the metastatic niche, empowered by the scalability and genetic tractability of the ex vivo system”.

Dr. Navickas has been inspired by several of his immediate colleagues: “I am fascinated by multiple discoveries in the fields of RNA biology, cancer progression, and, lately, stem cell and organoid biology, and so naturally I admire the scientists behind these discoveries. However, during the years I spent working in the lab I realized that I am mostly inspired by the people I am working closely with—my previous and current mentors and colleagues. I believe that in the light of day-by-day interaction and by understanding the motivation behind daily decisions—which sometimes are difficult to make—I learned the most of how this fascinating world of discoveries works. In this setting, which allows to build trust over time, I have heard the most inspiring stories on how certain discoveries were made, in true chronological order, as well as honest reflections on the professional and career development, and so on”.

Dr. Navickas offered some excellent advice for the starting graduate students: “I would advise to keep learning and enjoy this very stimulating time, which is best for personal and professional discoveries. I know that graduate students sometimes see this period as challenging—I did too—but from a more experienced perspective I now realize how joyfully focused on science and carefree about all the rest I could be back then. I think picturing this could feel liberating and empowering, so this is what I wish for every starting grad student”.

Navigating the relationship between academia and the private research sector has been the greatest challenge Dr. Navickas encountered in his career. “The interaction between academia and biotech industry, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area where I went for my post-doc, is thrilling and very dynamic. However, one of the downsides of it are PIs moving from academic positions to industry (rarely vice-versa), often with a short notice. I thus experienced a situation where a PI left the university several months after I joined their lab, which at that time felt quite destabilizing. Luckily, I was not alone in this situation, and my lab colleagues were very supportive during this time. Most of us quickly landed new positions and could continue our research in related fields”.

Dr. Navickas’ favorite RNA processing event is the No-Go Decay. “I have a nostalgic relationship with the No-Go Decay, an RNA quality control mechanism I worked on during my PhD. The identity of the No-Go Decay nuclease was one of the best scientific suspense stories in my opinion! Continuing on the No-Go Decay story, I really appreciated a series of articles from Elizabeth Grayhack group, that deciphered how ribosomes frameshift while trying to escape a stalling event that triggers No-Go Decay”.

You can reach out to Dr. Albertas Navickas on twitter @a_navickas.