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Research

The primary mission of the Duke Division of Surgical Sciences is the discovery, through hypothesis-driven research studies, of fundamental new scientific principles and insights that will ultimately improve the overall quality of global health care. We are known internationally for our excellence and groundbreaking research.

We have enjoyed a rich history of significant scientific accomplishments in many highly varied basic and clinical research areas over the past 35 years.

By establishing close collaborations with clinical investigators within the Department of Surgery and throughout Duke University Medical Center, breakthrough research discoveries made by surgical sciences principal investigators rapidly translate into new advances in clinical therapies for patients.

Scientific interactions among our individual research programs optimize research synergy and productivity.

Research Highlights

  • Successful clinical trials of aptamer-based anti-coagulants and their antidotes are providing the opportunity to improve safety for this emerging class of therapeutics.
  • Pre-clinical and clinical research is leading to development of oligonucleotide-based therapeutics, which have led to the "first-in-man" cancer clinical trial using phosphorodiamidate morpholino-based oligomer (PMO) agents.
  • Our researchers are creating, optimizing, and standardizing comprehensive analytic platforms to profile the human immune response in the context of a diverse array of clinical disease states.
  • Division researchers were involved in the identification of both breast cancer susceptibility genes (BRCA1 and 2) and are currently investigating their structure, function, and role in non-hereditary breast cancer.
  • New understandings of autoimmune disease are emerging from investigations of the hygiene hypothesis.
  • Division researchers lead an NIH-funded effort to conduct diagnostic testing to determine the immunogenicity of viable HIV vaccines.
  • Dendritic cell-based cancer immunotherapy approaches have had sucess in clinical trials. 

Research Programs

Cancer Genetics and Biology

Several laboratories in the division investigate questions in cancer genetics and cancer biology.

Applied Therapeutics
Identifying, quantifying and eliminating local disease while preserving and optimizing functional recovery

Devi Research Lab
Studying basic and fundamental mechanisms of apoptosis, or programmed cell death

Nair Research Lab
Designing and testing novel vaccines against cancer and viral infections in murine and human systems

Cardiovascular Biology Laboratory
Developing novel, safe, and effective nucleic acid therapeutics

Individual Faculty

The following faculty members also conduct research in cancer genetics and biology:

Cardiovascular Biology

Exploring molecular therapeutic approaches in the treatment of cardiovascular disease

Sullenger Research Lab
Developing novel, safe, and effective nucleic acid therapeutics

Cancer Therapeutics

Our researchers are developing innovative immune therapeutics and novel vaccination approaches that show promise for treating cancer.

Applied Therapeutics
Identifying, quantifying and eliminating local disease while preserving and optimizing functional recovery

Nair Research Lab
Designs and tests novel vaccines against cancer and invented an immunotherapy approach that has shown sucess in clinical trials

Weinhold Research Lab
Develops innovative immune therapeutic approaches that apply to patients with certain solid tumors

Immunology

The immunology program is centered on dendritic cell antigen presentation platforms and an extensive repertoire of immune monitoring technologies to support the development and clinical testing of novel immune-based therapies.

Laboratory for AIDS Vaccine Research and Development
Identifies immunogens that generate broadly cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies against HIV-1 for inclusion in vaccines

Nair Research Lab
Designs and tests novel vaccines against cancer and viral infections in murine and human systems

Immune Responses and Virology
Works to understand host-pathogen interactions in HIV

Immunologic Signatures Laboratory
Develops innovative immune therapeutic approaches that apply to patients with HIV, emerging infections, and solid tumors

Individual Faculty

The following faculty members also conduct immunology research:

Molecular and Nano Therapeutics

Our researchers apply these state-of-the-art technologies to the development of novel therapeutic strategies for cancer and autoimmune and infectious diseases.

Devi Research Lab
Studying basic and fundamental mechanisms of apoptosis, or programmed cell death

Cardiovascular Biology Laboratory
Developing novel, safe, and effective nucleic acid therapeutics

Individual Faculty

Vaccines

Investigators in the vaccines program explore a broad range of multidisciplinary approaches to development and testing in the arena of therapeutic strategies for various human cancers and infectious diseases.

Laboratory for AIDS Vaccine Research and Development
Viral immunology and AIDS vaccine development

Nair Research Lab 
Design and testing of novel vaccines against cancer and viral infections in murine and human systems

Cardiovascular Biology Laboratory
Novel, safe, and effective nucleic acid therapeutics

Tomaras Research Lab 
Investigation of host-pathogen interactions in HIV

Weinhold Research Lab 
Development of innovative immune therapeutic approaches based on pre-clinical analyses of relevant anti-viral and anti-tumor cytotoxic T-lymphocyte reactivities

The following individual faculty members also conduct vaccine-related research: