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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
Associate Professor in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Professor of Neurosurgery
Office: 1079 MSRB II, Box 103035, Durham, NC 27710
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


Lee, Jaewoo, Li Xu, Tyler M. Gibson, Charles A. Gersbach, and Bruce A. Sullenger. “Differential effects of toll-like receptor stimulation on mRNA-driven myogenic conversion of human and mouse fibroblasts.” Biochem Biophys Res Commun 478, no. 3 (September 23, 2016): 1484–90.

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Kahsai, Alem W., James W. Wisler, Jungmin Lee, Seungkirl Ahn, Thomas J. Cahill Iii, S Moses Dennison, Dean P. Staus, et al. “Conformationally selective RNA aptamers allosterically modulate the β2-adrenoceptor.” Nat Chem Biol 12, no. 9 (September 2016): 709–16.

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Holl, Eda K., Kara L. Shumansky, Luke B. Borst, Angela D. Burnette, Christopher J. Sample, Elizabeth A. Ramsburg, and Bruce A. Sullenger. “Scavenging nucleic acid debris to combat autoimmunity and infectious disease.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113, no. 35 (August 30, 2016): 9728–33.

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Lee, Youngju, Johannes H. Urban, Li Xu, Bruce A. Sullenger, and Jaewoo Lee. “2'Fluoro Modification Differentially Modulates the Ability of RNAs to Activate Pattern Recognition Receptors.” Nucleic Acid Ther 26, no. 3 (June 2016): 173–82.

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Nimjee, Shahid M., Thomas J. Povsic, Bruce A. Sullenger, and Richard C. Becker. “Translation and Clinical Development of Antithrombotic Aptamers.” Nucleic Acid Ther 26, no. 3 (June 2016): 147–55.

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Ganson, Nancy J., Thomas J. Povsic, Bruce A. Sullenger, John H. Alexander, Steven L. Zelenkofske, Jeffrey M. Sailstad, Christopher P. Rusconi, and Michael S. Hershfield. “Pre-existing anti-polyethylene glycol antibody linked to first-exposure allergic reactions to pegnivacogin, a PEGylated RNA aptamer.” J Allergy Clin Immunol 137, no. 5 (May 2016): 1610-1613.e7.

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Mi, Jing, Partha Ray, Jenny Liu, Chien-Tsun Kuan, Jennifer Xu, David Hsu, Bruce A. Sullenger, Rebekah R. White, and Bryan M. Clary. “In Vivo Selection Against Human Colorectal Cancer Xenografts Identifies an Aptamer That Targets RNA Helicase Protein DHX9.” Mol Ther Nucleic Acids 5 (April 26, 2016): e315.

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Freedman, Jennifer A., Timothy J. Robinson, Bonnie LaCroix, Brendon M. Patierno, Daniel J. George, Bruce A. Sullenger, and Steven R. Patierno. “Abstract B18: Development of novel therapeutic splice-switching oligonucleotides against aggressive prostate cancer in men of African descent.” In Cell, Molecular, and Tumor Biology. American Association for Cancer Research, 2016.

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