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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


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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Soule, Erin E., Kristin M. Bompiani, Rebecca S. Woodruff, and Bruce A. Sullenger. “Targeting Two Coagulation Cascade Proteases with a Bivalent Aptamer Yields a Potent and Antidote-Controllable Anticoagulant.” Nucleic Acid Ther 26, no. 1 (February 2016): 1–9.

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Pratico, Elizabeth D., Bryan J. Feger, Michael J. Watson, Bruce A. Sullenger, Dawn E. Bowles, Carmelo A. Milano, and Smita K. Nair. “RNA-Mediated Reprogramming of Primary Adult Human Dermal Fibroblasts into c-kit(+) Cardiac Progenitor Cells.” Stem Cells Dev 24, no. 22 (November 15, 2015): 2622–33.

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Soule, E., S. Krishnaswamy, and B. A. Sullenger. “Development and characterization of an RNA aptamer targeting FV/FVA.” In Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, 13:54–55. WILEY-BLACKWELL, 2015.


Pratico, Elizabeth D., Smita K. Nair, and Bruce A. Sullenger. “66. Identification and Characterization of a B Cell Aptamer That Targets Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) and Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML).” In Molecular Therapy, 23:S29–S29. Elsevier BV, 2015.

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Gray, Bethany Powell, Linsley Kelly, Matthew Levy, and Bruce A. Sullenger. “A Novel Aptamer Targeting Agent for Prostate Cancer.” In Molecular Therapy, 23:S28–29. NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2015.