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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


Naqvi, Ibtehaj, Ruwan Gunaratne, Jessica E. McDade, Angelo Moreno, Rachel E. Rempel, Douglas C. Rouse, Silvia Gabriela Herrera, et al. “Polymer-Mediated Inhibition of Pro-invasive Nucleic Acid DAMPs and Microvesicles Limits Pancreatic Cancer Metastasis.” Mol Ther 26, no. 4 (April 4, 2018): 1020–31.

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Dornbos, David L., Debra G. Wheeler, Matthew E. Joseph, George A. Pitoc, Julie M. Layzer, Allyson Huttinger, Spencer Talentino, et al. “Translating Thrombolytic Efficacy of Von Willebrand Factor Aptamer Inhibition From a Small to Large Animal Model of Carotid Occlusion.” In Circulation, Vol. 136. LIPPINCOTT WILLIAMS & WILKINS, 2017.


Steen Burrell, K. -. A., J. Layzer, and B. A. Sullenger. “A kallikrein-targeting RNA aptamer inhibits the intrinsic pathway of coagulation and reduces bradykinin release.” J Thromb Haemost 15, no. 9 (September 2017): 1807–17.

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Lee, Jaewoo, Youngju Lee, Li Xu, Rebekah White, and Bruce A. Sullenger. “Differential Induction of Immunogenic Cell Death and Interferon Expression in Cancer Cells by Structured ssRNAs.” Mol Ther 25, no. 6 (June 7, 2017): 1295–1305.

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Toulmé, J. J., P. H. Giangrande, G. Mayer, B. Suess, F. Ducongé, B. Sullenger, V. De Franciscis, F. Darfeuille, and E. Peyrin. “Aptamers in Bordeaux, 24–25 June 2016.” Pharmaceuticals 10, no. 1 (March 1, 2017).

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Lee, Jaewoo, Jennifer G. Jackman, Jean Kwun, Miriam Manook, Angelo Moreno, Eric A. Elster, Allan D. Kirk, Kam W. Leong, and Bruce A. Sullenger. “Nucleic acid scavenging microfiber mesh inhibits trauma-induced inflammation and thrombosis.” Biomaterials 120 (March 2017): 94–102.

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Kim, Jina, Ibtehaj Naqvi, Uttara P. Nag, Harold J. Leraas, James C. Otto, Alexandra J. Borst, Kevin D. Hill, Gregory A. Fleming, Bruce A. Sullenger, and Elisabeth T. Tracy. “Cell-Free DNA Is Elevated after Acute Arterial Injury in Infants.” In Blood, Vol. 128. AMER SOC HEMATOLOGY, 2016.