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EMalick Goree Njie

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eMalick Goree Njie (born October 26th, 1980) is a scientist and entrepreneur from The Gambia with expertise in neuroscience, genetics, and artificial intelligence (AI). He has formed companies that use AI to identify the genetic causes of neurodegenerative diseases and inherited diseases in general in order to cure these diseases. He is one of only two people from The Gambia known to have trained and worked as neuroscientists.

Early life[edit]

Njie was born in Banjul, The Gambia and raised in a middle-class household in Serekunda. His father was a customs broker and played for the national soccer team, while his mother focused on nation-building efforts, such as reducing female genital mutilation and creating a written version of the Wolof language. Both of his parents encouraged his curiosity in nature and the sciences.

Education and Career[edit]

After immigrating to the United States when he was ten years old and settling in Rhode Island, Njie attended Classical High School before going on to study Neuroscience at Northeastern University in Boston. He then spent a gap year as a research technician at MIT, where he worked on developing single molecule glues for the visualization of hippocampal neurons. He later enrolled in the University of Florida, earning his PhD in Neuroscience with a focus on proteomic and cellular mechanisms of neurodegeneration, particularly in relation to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. During his PhD studies, he discovered that microglia, an essential support cell in the mammalian brain, decline in function in an age-related manner, which may contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease.[1].

Njie's studies on Alzheimer's disease left him with more questions than answers, particularly regarding the accepted causes of neurodegeneration and the lack of standardized methods to determine the role of inherited genes. As a result, he sought out model systems where more solid ground truths were available and conducted his postdoctoral studies in Nobel laureate Martin Chalfie's laboratory at Columbia University. There, he studied the genetics of touch-sensing neurons in the model organism C. elegans.  He led a team that discovered about 30 genes necessary for the ensheathment of touch-sensing cells by epidermal cells (i.e., skin). These genes and the ensheathment process have wide-ranging importance, providing insight into various life processes and the genetic basis of peripheral neuropathologic diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis[2].

The large number of ensheathment genes and the size and complexity of the genomic datasets needed to identify them led Njie to teach himself computer coding and develop artificial intelligence systems to process and understand these datasets.  Inspired by the success of applying artificial intelligence to genetics, Njie founded Genetic Intelligence, which pioneered the use of convolutional neural nets and manifold-based unsupervised learning to analyze the human genome. This work has been recognized by the National Science Foundation[3] and described in several published patents[4][5]

Scientific Outreach[edit]

In addition to his scientific pursuits, Njie has participated in leading scientific meetings, including the Society for Neuroscience, American Society for Cell Biology, the International C. elegans Conference, and the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. At the 63th annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, he was selected by Countess Bettina Bernadotte of Wisborg as the meetings international representative of young researchers[6]. He has also been active in building scientific communities, starting with the informal "cookie text club" while at MIT and continuing with "Brain Dub" at the University of Florida and "NeuroStorm" at Columbia University. He has a keen interest in teaching STEM to the next generation and has worked with GEAR UP while an undergraduate at Northeastern University and taught at St. Joseph's High School in Banjul, The Gambia.

Personal life[edit]

In his free time, Njie enjoys outdoor sports such as hiking and kite surfing, which allow him to continue exploring the natural world and his childhood wonderment of nature. He has pursued these passions in various locations around the globe, including Nova Scotia, Central America, and the ABC islands.

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  1. Njie, eMalick G.; Boelen, Ellen; Stassen, Frank R.; Steinbusch, Harry W. M.; Borchelt, David R.; Streit, Wolfgang J. (2012-01-01). "Ex vivo cultures of microglia from young and aged rodent brain reveal age-related changes in microglial function". Neurobiology of Aging. 33 (1): 195.e1–195.e12. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2010.05.008. ISSN 0197-4580.
  2. "Program and Abstract Book - 19th International C. elegans Meeting". Retrieved 2023-01-04.
  3. "NSF Award Search: Award # 1819331 - SBIR Phase I: Platform to Elucidate the Causal Mutations Behind Human Inherited Diseases". Retrieved 2023-01-02.
  4. "US Patent Application for CONVOLUTIONAL ARTIFICIAL NEURAL NETWORKS, SYSTEMS AND METHODS OF USE Patent Application (Application #20180276333 issued September 27, 2018) - Justia Patents Search". Retrieved 2023-01-02.
  5. "US Patent Application for METHODS FOR DATA SEGMENTATION AND IDENTIFICATION Patent Application (Application #20190347567 issued November 14, 2019) - Justia Patents Search". Retrieved 2023-01-03.
  6. "Gallery - 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting | Lindau Mediatheque". Lindau Nobel Mediatheque. 2022-08-12. Retrieved 2023-01-02.