Dr. Ryan K.C. Yuen headshot

Dr. Ryan K.C. Yuen – Principal Investigator

  • Senior Scientist, Genetics & Genome Biology, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)
  • Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto

Ryan received his PhD with Dr. Wendy Robinson at the University of British Columbia in 2011, investigating the epigenetics of human fetal and placental development. His postdoctoral research with Dr. Stephen Scherer (at SickKids Research Institute) primarily focused on exploiting whole genome-scanning methodologies to dissect the underlying genetic architecture in autism spectrum disorder and related neurodevelopmental conditions. His current major research focus is to develop novel disease gene discovery strategies, effective diagnostic approaches and better treatments for brain related disorders.

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Dr. Sasha Mitina – Research Fellow

Sasha obtained her Master’s degree from the Faculty of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics at the Lomonosov Moscow State University and her PhD from the Center for Life Sciences at Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow. In her thesis work under supervision of Prof. Philipp Khaitovich, she investigated the role of breast milk lipid composition in postnatal brain development as well as molecular changes underlying the evolution of the human brain. Sasha joined the Yuen Lab in September 2021 as a Research Fellow to study the role of tandem repeat expansions in human neurological disorders.


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Dr. Amira Moustafa – Research Fellow

Dr. Amira Moustafa obtained her undergraduate degree from Mansoura University (Egypt) in Pharmaceutical Sciences and M.Sc. in Biochemical/Biomaterials from Western University (Canada). She finished PhD in Biology at York University under the supervision of Prof. McDermott where she investigated the role of MEF2 transcription factor networks is cardiac muscle.


Anita Yin holding flowers at University of Toronto graduation

Yue (Anita) Yin – Data Analyst

Anita completed her B.Sc. in Cell & Molecular Biology specialist program and Applied Statistics minor program from University of Toronto (Scarborough) in 2016. During her B.Sc., Anita completed her first co-op work-term in a research team focusing on reproductive health and developmental diseases at BGI-Shenzhen in China. Then she finished the second work-term in the Heon Lab at SickKids, studying inherited eye disorders. In 2017, Anita received her M.Sc. in Biostatistics from University of Toronto. During her M.Sc., Anita worked on a practicum project, co-supervised by Dr. Sondheimer and Dr. Strug, where she modeled nuclear DNA and the mtDNA misalignment effect on Type 2 Diabetes. Anita joined Yuen Lab in the summer of 2017 as a Data Analyst. She mainly focuses on statistical analyses of NGS sequencing data and data management for the lab. In her spare time, Anita enjoys exploring different brunch places and watching movies.


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Ian Backstrom – Lab Manager/Research Technologist

Ian Backstrom graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2016 with a B.Sc. in Microbiology and Immunology. During his undergraduate program, he worked as a co-op student at the UBC Wine Research Centre, genotyping yeast used in wine production, and at the BC Cancer Research Centre, studying gene knock-downs as chemosensitizers and exploring effective delivery methods for copper-complexed drugs to tumor cells. After graduating, Ian began work as a biological technician at Precision Nanosystems Inc., where he helped provide biological endpoint data to determine the toxicity and delivery efficacy of company-made liposomes. After a move to Toronto, Ian started his current position as the lab manager and research technologist for the Yuen Lab in 2018. In addition to his scientific endeavors, Ian is a classically trained singer having worked with opera, operetta, and musical theatre companies throughout Toronto and Vancouver. During his free time Ian enjoys running, hanging out with his dog, and playing the piano.


Ian Backstrom black and white headshot

Induja Chandrakumar – Bioinformatician

Induja completed her joint B.CS. in Computer Science and Biology at the University of Waterloo. After graduating, she worked as a computational biologist at the microbiology startup BugSeq. There, she developed tools for bioterrorism detection in partnership with the CDC and created pioneering predictors of antimicrobial resistance from clinical metagenomic samples. She has published methods in metagenomics and the tracking of hospital acquired infections, then deployed them in hospitals across the US and Canada. She is currently working on methods to detect somatic repeat expansions in cancer cells.


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Hoi Lam (Phoenix) Doong – Assistant Research Technologist

Phoenix is a newcomer to Toronto. She completed her B.Sc. in Biological Sciences at the University of Hong Kong and has been a genetic assistant in Hong Kong for 2 years. Apart from providing genetic counselling to rare disease patients, she also helped in a parental mosaicism project and the Hong Kong Genome Project. She hopes to continue helping genetic disease patients with variant analyses and short tandem repeats studies. In her spare time, she likes going on road trips and photography.


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Mahreen Khan – PhD Candidate

Mahreen completed her B.Sc. in the Human Biology Genetics program at the University of Toronto, and is currently pursuing her PhD in the Department of Molecular Genetics at UofT under the supervision of Dr. Ryan Yuen and Dr. Christopher Pearson. She is interested in identifying genetic modifiers of tandem repeat expansions through next-generation and long-read sequencing in addition to in vitro experiments. In her free time, Mahreen enjoys binging Netflix shows, trying new amateur home-cook recipes, and showing off pictures of her dogs.


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Muyang (Farren) Cheng – PhD Candidate

Muyang completed his B.Sc. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and is currently in pursuing his PhD in the Department of Molecular Genetics. He is currently working on identifying the genetic modifiers of the 22q11.2 deletion and 7q11.23 duplication syndrome that lead to schizophrenia among other diverse disease phenotypes. Muyang enjoys solving jigsaw puzzles during his free time, particularly those of natural scenery.


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Yankai (Kevin) Wu – M.Sc. Candidate

Kevin completed his B.Sc. in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Toronto Scarborough in 2021, and is now working in the Yuen Lab to complete his M.Sc. in the Department of Molecular Genetics at UofT. He is currently investigating the general characteristics of short tandem repeats across the human genome, with a specific interest in the patterns of repeat length mutations and inheritance from parent to offspring. In his spare time, Kevin enjoys playing random notes on his guitar in the hopes that somewhere something will form, and he also likes wandering around in local Asian supermarkets to browse for expensive snacks that he would never buy.


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Jimmy Nguyen – M.Sc. Candidate

Jimmy is a graduate student in the Molecular Genetics program under the supervision of Dr. Ryan Yuen and Dr. Gregory Costain. His research interests include using genomic technologies to investigate the etiology of rare diseases. Prior to graduate school, Jimmy worked as a Medical Laboratory Technologist at BC Children’s Hospital specializing in diagnostic molecular and cytogenetic testing. In his free time, he enjoys climbing, pottery, and cooking new recipes.


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Celine Salhab – M.Sc. Candidate

Celine is a first-year graduate student in the Yuen Lab pursuing a Master of Science degree at the University of Toronto’s Molecular Genetics program. Celine obtained her Bachelor of Science in Fundamental Genetics and its Applications and Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Toronto. She is interested in studying repeat expansions in cancer. Outside the lab, you can find Celine trying new restaurants, re-watching her favourite Turkish shows, or shopping at the mall.


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Juliana Concini – Volunteer

Juliana is currently in her second year at the University of Toronto. She is majoring in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and minoring in Immunology. Juliana joined the Yuen Lab to learn more about how genetic variants can cause disease and the ways in which these variants can be detected. Outside of the lab, Juliana enjoys playing soccer, running, and reading.


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Serena He – Volunteer

Serena is currently in her third year at the University of Toronto, majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science. She joined the Yuen Lab to learn about the applications of mathematics, bioinformatics, and computational methods in genetic research, and specifically how to use and develop them to find genetic causes for chronic diseases and disorders. In her free time Serena likes to snowboard, travel, and play soccer.

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Joey Ng – Volunteer

Joey is currently in her third year at the University of Toronto, majoring in Physiology and Cell and Molecular Biology. She is interested in learning about the mechanisms by which genome modifications can lead to different disorders and the sequencing methods used to identify tandem repeats in the Yuen Lab. In her free time, Joey enjoys watching TV shows or movies, crocheting, and swimming.

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Joseph Yu – Volunteer

Joseph is currently a second-year bioinformatics and computer science student at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Prior to volunteering the Yuen Lab, he was research student in Alex N. Nguyen Ba’s lab at UTM, where he studied yeast orthologs of human DNA-repair genes. He is excited about research occurring at the intersection of machine learning and molecular genetics and is excited to learn about modern tools in genetic analysis. When he has free time, he engages himself in philosophy and creative writing.

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Yuxi Zhu – Volunteer

Yuxi is a second-year student at the University of Toronto, majoring in Molecular Genetics and specializing in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. Yuxi is interested in somatic repeat expansions in cancer cells and tool development in the Yuen Lab. In her free time, Yuxi enjoys jogging, reading, learning languages and watching movies

Lab alumni

Dr. Bahareh Adhami-Mojorad – Research Fellow

Charlotte Nguyen – M.Sc. Graduate (2019)

Farah Qaiser – M.Sc. Graduate (2020)

Elisa Guo – Assistant Research Technologist

Linda Pallotto – Assistant Research Technologist

Alona Dov – Graduate Student

Gwyneth Bolter – Co-op Student

Sofia Gentile – Undergraduate Student

Chelsea Wong – Undergraduate Student

Angela Ng – Undergraduate Student

Robin Yuen – Undergraduate Student

Eric Kim – Undergraduate Student

Layla Ahmed – Undergraduate Student

Bushra Haque – Undergraduate Student

Jenny Du – Undergraduate Student

Charmaine Lau – Undergraduate Student

Induja Chandrakumar – Undergraduate Student

Michael Wong – Undergraduate Student

Isabella Gallello – Undergraduate Student

Ana Jung – Undergraduate Student

Ching Yeung Lam – Undergraduate Student

Jady Liang – Undergraduate Student

Lebo Wang – Undergraduate Student

Akhil Kumar – Volunteer

Ting Chen (Elinor) Yao – Volunteer

Neta Pipko – Volunteer

Stephanie Nguyen – Volunteer

Cherith Somerville – Volunteer