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Bruce Alan Sullenger, PhD

Joseph W. and Dorothy W. Beard Distinguished Professor of Experimental Surgery, in the School of Medicine
Professor of Surgery
Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Professor of Neurosurgery
Office: 120 Serrano Way, Chapel Hill, NC 27517
Campus Mail: DUMC Box 103035, Durham, NC 27710

The main focus of my translational research laboratory is to develop RNA based therapeutic agents for the potential treatment of a range of diseases. To this end, we have and will continue to take advantage of the fact that RNA is not just a passive carrier of genetic instructions inside of cells during the conversion of information from DNA to RNA to protein. Rather, RNA is an extremely versatile biological macromolecule. Certian RNAs can bind to specific protiens with high affinities, while others can for catalytic centers and perform enzymatic reactions. These facets of RNA coupled with the ease with which RNA can be manipulated in vitro make it a very powerful and unique therapeutic agent whose potential is largely untapped. Durring our endeavors, we plan to work closely with the members of the Molecular Therapeutics program as well as other faculty at the Duke University Medical Center to expedite the development and testing of these therapeutics.

The specific aims of my laboratory are:

1. To isolate and characterize RNA and DNA aptamers which block therapeutically relavent proteins such as those involved in cardiovascular diseases and immune modulation.

2. To develop RNA-based tumor targeting strategies for delivering siRNAs and miRNAs to tumor cells.

3. To reprogram cells using mRNA delivery.

4. To explore novel methods to control inflammation.

Education and Training

  • Ph.D., Cornell University, 1990

Selected Grants


Moreno, Angelo, George A. Pitoc, Nancy J. Ganson, Juliana M. Layzer, Michael S. Hershfield, Alice F. Tarantal, and Bruce A. Sullenger. “Anti-PEG Antibodies Inhibit the Anticoagulant Activity of PEGylated Aptamers.” Cell Chem Biol 26, no. 5 (May 16, 2019): 634-644.e3.

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Chabata, Charlene V., Ruwan Gunaratne, James W. Frederiksen, and Bruce A. Sullenger. “Exploring Novel Aptamer-Heparin Combinations to Improve Anticoagulation Therapy in Cardiopulmonary Bypass.” In Molecular Therapy, 27:364–65. CELL PRESS, 2019.


Landa, K., E. Holl, V. N. Frazier, B. A. Sullenger, E. Hwang, and S. Nair. “Targeting DAMPs-Induced Inflammation in Breast Cancer.” In Annals of Surgical Oncology, 26:S71–S71. SPRINGER, 2019.


Darrabie, Marcus D., Jennifer Cheeseman, Alexander T. Limkakeng, Joseph Borawski, Bruce A. Sullenger, Eric A. Elster, Allan D. Kirk, and Jaewoo Lee. “Toll-like receptor activation as a biomarker in traumatically injured patients.” J Surg Res 231 (November 2018): 270–77.

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Huttinger, Allyson L., Debra G. Wheeler, Surya Gnyawali, David Dornbos, Juliana M. Layzer, Nicholas Venetos, Spencer Talentino, et al. “Ferric Chloride-induced Canine Carotid Artery Thrombosis: A Large Animal Model of Vascular Injury.” J Vis Exp, no. 139 (September 7, 2018).

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Chabata, Charlene V., James W. Frederiksen, Bruce A. Sullenger, and Ruwan Gunaratne. “Emerging applications of aptamers for anticoagulation and hemostasis.” Curr Opin Hematol 25, no. 5 (September 2018): 382–88.

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Gunaratne, Ruwan, Shekhar Kumar, James W. Frederiksen, Steven Stayrook, Jens L. Lohrmann, Kay Perry, Kristin M. Bompiani, et al. “Combination of aptamer and drug for reversible anticoagulation in cardiopulmonary bypass.” Nat Biotechnol 36, no. 7 (August 2018): 606–13.

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LaCroix, Bonnie L., Brendon M. Patierno, Bruce A. Sullenger, Daniel J. George, Steven R. Patierno, and Jennifer A. Freedman. “Development of a novel therapeutic splice-switching oligonucleotide targeting race-related androgen receptor signaling and aggressive prostate cancer.” In Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, 27:46–46. AMER ASSOC CANCER RESEARCH, 2018.


LaCroix, Bonnie L., Brendon M. Patierno, Bruce A. Sullenger, Daniel J. George, Steven R. Patierno, and Jennifer A. Freedman. “Nutritional profiling reveals glutamine-utilizing transaminases as a metabolic vulnerability of TAZ/YAP-driven breast cancer cells.” In Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, 27:148–148. AMER ASSOC CANCER RESEARCH, 2018.


Powell Gray, Bethany, Linsley Kelly, Douglas P. Ahrens, Ashley P. Barry, Christina Kratschmer, Matthew Levy, and Bruce A. Sullenger. “Tunable cytotoxic aptamer-drug conjugates for the treatment of prostate cancer.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 115, no. 18 (May 1, 2018): 4761–66.

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