ASU News

ASU appoints DuBois executive director of Biodesign Institute


September 26, 2012

Raymond DuBois, an internationally renowned physician-scientist whose research has advanced the understanding of the molecular basis for the prevention of colon cancer, has been named executive director of Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute. 

He also will hold the Dalton Chair in ASU’s College of Health Solutions with joint appointments in chemistry and biochemistry. In addition, he will have a joint appointment with Mayo Clinic, co-leading the cancer prevention program. Download Full Image

DuBois, whose position will be effective Dec. 1, 2012, comes to ASU from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he served as provost and executive vice president, and professor of cancer biology and cancer medicine. At MD Anderson he was responsible for developing and overseeing research strategy, faculty, the School of Health Professions, graduate education programs and initiatives, and Global Academic Programs.

ASU’s Biodesign Institute is a unique interdisciplinary research endeavor devoted to bio-inspired innovation – that is, using nature’s building principles as a guideline for addressing a range of problems and challenges in health care, sustainability and security. With 10 research centers in 350,000 square feet of LEED certified laboratories, 700 employees and 208 active research projects, the Biodesign Institute is a nerve center for biomedical, sustainability and national security discovery.

“The Biodesign Institute was established 10 years ago with the intention of it becoming a world-class research enterprise. It has achieved that status,” says ASU President Michael M. Crow. “Now it’s time to put the rocket boosters on and advance to what I call Biodesign 2.0. 

"In Ray DuBois we have not only an extraordinary researcher, but also someone gifted in research administration. We are fortunate to have such an accomplished scientist and visionary lead Biodesign into its next phase of development.”

“I have spent my professional career in academic medicine and I am delighted to be given the opportunity to head up Biodesign at ASU and venture into some very exciting areas that are crucial to the future of the planet,” DuBois said. “The institute was founded on a remarkably innovative concept – one that offers flexibility and cross-discipline collaborations that have the potential to positively impact mankind in incalculable ways. I can’t wait to get started. I believe that leading the Biodesign Institute is not only going to be intellectually stimulating and personally rewarding, but also a lot of fun.”

“Dr. Dubois’ broad depth of expertise in cancer prevention and cancer translational research will be a tremendous asset to Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University’s collaborative cancer fighting efforts," said Wyatt W. Decker, vice president of Mayo Clinic and CEO of Mayo Clinic in Arizona. "We look forward to having Dr. Dubois an integral part of our team as we continue to expand the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center presence in the Southwest.”

“The recruitment of Dr. DuBois to lead the Biodesign Institute is a tremendous positive for ASU,” said Jeffrey M. Trent, TGen’s president and research director. “Further, there is no question in my mind that Ray’s clinical insights, research, demeanor, integrity and focus on academic excellence should help galvanize Arizona’s biomedical community around key questions that can benefit cancer patients. His own research efforts have profoundly impacted the field of cancer prevention, leading to the development of even more effective strategies to both treat and prevent cancer. 

“Ray is an internationally recognized physician-scientist, and having had the privilege of interacting with him for more than two decades, I can state with assurance that he will provide exceptional leadership to help position the Biodesign Institute into the future,” Trent said.

DuBois came to MD Anderson from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., where he was director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, the B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Medical Oncology and professor of medicine, cell biology and cancer biology.

The author of more than 135 peer reviewed publications, DuBois began his academic research career in 1991 as an assistant professor at Vanderbilt. He had received a bachelor's in biochemistry from Texas A&M University (1977), a doctorate in biochemistry from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas (1981) and a medical degree from The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio (1985). From 1985 to 1991, he completed his postgraduate training at the Johns Hopkins Hospital as an intern and resident on the Osler medical service, followed by a fellowship in gastroenterology and postdoctoral research fellowship with Nobel Laureate Daniel Nathans.

After joining the faculty at Vanderbilt, DuBois was promoted to full professor in six years, his research having advanced the understanding of colorectal cancer and having led to the development of promising cancer prevention and treatment strategies.  

In the 1990s, DuBois and colleagues reported that colorectal tumors contained high levels of the enzyme cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2). This enzyme is a key step in the production of pro-inflammatory mediators such as prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). The DuBois team was the first to show that colorectal cancers over-expressed COX-2 and their research defined a series of critical molecular pathways involved in COX-2 expression – namely, that blocking or inhibiting the COX-2 enzyme would cause colorectal tumors to shrink. This work led to clinical trials and the treatment of precancerous polyps with Celebrex, an arthritis drug that selectively inhibits COX-2. 

DuBois explains, “What’s interesting about my research as it relates to biodesign is that it has been known for centuries that the bark of the willow tree was used to treat pain and inflammation. By the 19th century an extract from willow bark was found to contain an active ingredient, salicylic acid, which was the chemical building block used to make aspirin. Aspirin was the first medicine marketed that inhibited cyclo-oxygenase, laying the groundwork for the discovery of the next generation of inhibitors like Celebrex that are available today for treating symptoms of pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. In other words, using a compound derived from the bark of the willow tree as a starting point, a whole new class of agents has been developed that not only reduces pain, but also inhibits the development of colorectal cancer.”

From 1998 to 2004, DuBois directed Vanderbilt’s Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. During his tenure, he earned a reputation for outstanding leadership, marked by substantial growth in faculty, and the division’s research funding and clinical revenues more than doubled. He was also awarded such major grants as a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Program Project grant for the discovery of novel cancer prevention targets and a National Institutes of Health Digestive Disease Research Center grant, one of only 16 in the country. He currently is the principal investigator on the only prevention program project grant awarded by the NCI in 2012.

Among his many awards and honors are: the Ellen F. Knisely Distinguished Chair in Colon Cancer Research; Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars; Anthony Dipple Carcinogenesis Award from Oxford University Press; Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Gastroenterological Association; Dorothy P. Landon Cancer Research Prize; Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Cancer Research Award; E.V. Newman Research Prize from the Vanderbilt University Department of Medicine; Outstanding Investigator Award from the American Federation for Medical Research; and Catedra Gonzalo Rio Arronte Award from Mexico City, Mexico.

He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is a past president of the American Association for Cancer Research and serves on the executive committee of the Aspen Cancer Conference. In addition, he is a founding scientific advisor for both the National Colon Cancer Research Alliance and Stand Up To Cancer.

Ray’s wife, Lisa A. DuBois, is a distinguished journalist and author. They have two children, a daughter, Shelley, and a son, Ethan.

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ASU News

African students earn degrees through $27M MasterCard Foundation, ASU partnership


September 26, 2012

Arizona State University welcomes 10 students from seven African nations this year, as the first class of MasterCard Foundation Scholars begin studies at ASU. As part of this program, ASU will receive $27.5 million over the next seven years to provide academically talented, yet financially disadvantaged, students from Africa, who are committed to giving back to their communities and countries, with access to high-quality education. 

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program was announced today at a United Nations Special Session marking the launch of “Education First” – an initiative that seeks to ensure all children have access to quality education. The Scholars Program was highlighted as an innovative model for educating young people and encouraging citizenship. MasterCard Scholars Download Full Image

Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world, yet the region lags behind in secondary and higher education completion rates. More than 2.2 million youth are expected to enter the labor force each year in Sub-Saharan Africa between 2011 and 2015, including academically talented young people who face significant barriers to quality education.

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program aims to educate and build a network of 15,000 scholars and enable them to contribute to the economic growth and social progress of their countries of origin. It offers a comprehensive package to students, which includes financial, academic and social support, as well as access to networks to make successful transitions to further education or the workforce in Africa.

ASU was selected by The MasterCard Foundation to participate in the program because of the university’s strong commitment to global engagement, supporting underserved populations, social embeddedness, sustainability and entrepreneurship. Scholars at ASU will build experiences, values and competencies that are critical to success in the global economy, and that enable them to give back to their communities and home countries.

The program will ultimately support 120 scholars at ASU.

“As African nations grow, their youth must prepare to become the future leaders of their countries – leaders who will usher in an era of innovation while addressing large-scale problems such as poverty, political instability and hunger," said ASU President Michael Crow. "Providing educational opportunities through the partnership between ASU and The MasterCard Foundation, the scholars program will give students the intellectual expertise to better serve their countries."

Scholars are supported throughout their educational journey with academic advising, financial guidance, peer support and career counseling. Students who are granted scholar status engage in community development activities while they are attending school and when they return home.

MasterCard Foundation Scholars at ASU speak of their desire to return home to address issues that affect their nations – electricity challenges, access to health care, safe drinking water, domestic violence, access to education, political freedom and illiteracy.

Rumbidzai Mugaro, of Zimbabwe, is a scholar at ASU majoring in mathematics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. During a speech at the university, she spoke of the need to drive change in Africa and her desire to give back to her home country.

“Each of us here is driven by the change we believe in, a change we could have envisioned since we were children, a change we know will alleviate the status of our home countries, a change our experience at ASU will help come true,” she said. “The opportunity you have given us goes beyond the province of our imagination. ... We will all work toward achieving the change we want to see.”

Giresse Tchegho, of Cameroon, is working toward a degree in chemical engineering at the ASU Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, as he pursues his ultimate goal of becoming a doctor and returning to work in his country where one doctor may serve hundreds of people.

When Tchegho heard the news that he was accepted as a MasterCard Foundation Scholar, he was ecstatic. “I was jumping all over the place. I was really happy,” he said.

Now he’s part of the ASU community, an “amazing” place where people are “really helpful.” Tchegho spends his days on campus from 8 a.m. to midnight, every day, working toward his educational goals, and he says he's planning on volunteering at area hospitals.

Additional members of the first class of MasterCard Foundation Scholars at ASU:

• Annan Detti, engineering, College of Technology and Innovation, Ethiopia

• Zemichael Hailu, aerospace engineering, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Ethiopia

• Allen Kawanzaruwa, mathematics, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Zimbabwe

• Rumbidzai Mugaro, mathematics, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Zimbabwe

• Gamuchirai Tavaziva, biochemistry, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Zimbabwe

• Ibrahima Diop, electrical engineering, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Senegal

• Verah Nyarige, biochemistry, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Kenya

• Christy Nyarwaya, electrical engineering, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Rwanda

• Ama Owusu-Darko, health sciences, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Ghana

ASU joins a global network of institutions that were selected for their shared values, academic excellence, nurturing environment and programs relevant to growth sectors in Africa. Other partners currently involved in The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program are: American University of Beirut – Faculty of Health Sciences; Ashesi University; Duke University; EARTH University; Michigan State University; Stanford University; University of California-Berkeley and Wellesley College. The program also includes a partnership with African Leadership Academy to develop an African-based careers network for Scholars to access internships and jobs across the continent. 

To learn more about the program, visit mastercardfdnscholars.org