Scripps Research Institute Appoints Innovative Biotech Scientist to Cancer Biology Department

JUPITER, FL, March 14, 2013 – The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has appointed Mark Sundrud as an assistant professor in the Department of Cancer Biology. Before joining Scripps Florida, Sundrud was a principal scientist and head of discovery biology at Tempero Pharmaceuticals, a GlaxoSmithKline-funded Massachusetts-based biotechnology company focused on developing new therapeutics for autoimmune diseases.

“It’s a distinct pleasure to welcome Mark,” said John Cleveland, chair of the Department of Cancer Biology. “I fully expect he will be a major contributor to our growing success. His exceptional work in immunology adds depth to the department and will help shed much needed light on the role of immune surveillance in cancer.”

“I’m honored to join the Scripps Florida faculty,” said Sundrud. “What attracted me—in addition to the high level of science—was the integration of chemistry, molecular therapeutics and exceptional screening resources on one campus. My research interests have always been centered on basic aspects on T cell biology, but always within the context of what’s relevant to patients and clinical disease. That will continue to be the focus of my work at Scripps Florida.”

Sundrud earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology with honors from Concordia College and a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he received the Sidney P. Colowick Memorial Award for outstanding graduate research. He went on to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School, where he was awarded a fellowship from the Irvington Institute fellowship program of the Cancer Research Institute.

As the head of target discovery at the newly formed Tempero Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Sundrud oversaw the company's early research programs that were focused on defining the mechanisms underlying T cell-mediated inflammation and on developing innovative therapeutic strategies for the treatment of chronic and autoimmune inflammation. Sundrud also served as the scientific manager of a research alliance between GlaxoSmithKline and the Harvard Medical School-affiliated Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Children's Hospital in Boston.

Sundrud was the lead author of a groundbreaking 2009 study, published in the journal Science, which described how halofuginone, a small molecule derived from the root of the blue evergreen hydrangea, specifically inhibits the development of a unique, inflammatory subset of CD4+ “helper” T cells known as Th17 cells, which have been implicated in a variety of common autoimmune disorders.

In his research program at Scripps Florida, Sundrud, now 34 and a resident of Jupiter, aims to better understand the molecular underpinnings of how inflammatory T cells develop and promote tissue inflammation—with the ultimate goal of applying that knowledge towards the development of new therapies.

“My research has been focused on understanding the metabolic and stress response pathways of Th17 cells so one can restrict inflammation without broadly suppressing the immune system,” he said. “But if we switch that around, we may also be able to harness these same T cells and these same pathways to eradicate tumors.”

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