Cell biologist Beronja joins Fred Hutch faculty

Slobodan Beronja’s Human Biology Division lab uses skin as a model system for understanding cancer development
Dr. Slobodan Beronja, Human Biology Division
Dr. Slobodan Beronja, Human Biology Division Photo by Bo Jungmayer

Dr. Slobodan Beronja joined the faculty of the Hutchinson Center's Human Biology Division in early April. His lab studies the molecular and cellular mechanisms essential for tissue growth during the development and the formation of tumors.

"Our goal is to identify genes and gene pathways that can be used as targets in cancer therapy with a particular focus on the regulators of the balance between stem cell renewal and differentiation," said Beronja, who received his doctorate from the University of Toronto, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Rockefeller University.

Beronja uses mouse skin epidermis and epidermal squamous cell carcinoma as models of tissue growth in development and disease. With approaches including in vivo RNA interference and genomewide screens, he aims to uncover biological principles that are broadly applicable to solid tumor development.

Beronja expressed enthusiasm for pursuing his work at Fred Hutch. "It is a rare place that combines two elements that are critical for a young lab to grow and succeed: access to outstanding students, postdocs and technicians, and open and nurturing interaction with senior faculty and administration," he said. "The breadth and excellence of research activities at the Hutch, as well as its growing interest in solid tumor biology, will further serve to stimulate and support the training of lab members and development of our research program."

Fellow Human Biology researcher Dr. Valeri Vasioukhin called Slobodan an outstanding young investigator. "As a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Elaine Fuchs' laboratory, he developed a novel revolutionary technology that makes it possible to perform in vivo genome-wide RNAi screens for critical genes involved in normal tissue homeostasis and cancer," Vasioukhin said. "With rapid advances of modern molecular biology, the cancer biologists are finding many new genes that are frequently affected in human cancer. Slobodan's new technology provides a new unprecedented tool for functional analysis of these genes that can quickly sort out the critical cancer-drivers from innocent bystanders."

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