Sharon Stack

Kleiderer-Pezold Professor of Biochemistry, Ann F. Dunne and Elizabeth M. Riley Director of the Harper Cancer Research Institute

Sharon Stack

Basic science—that is, research based on fundamental scientific principles—drives most innovation and breakthrough-level discoveries in cancer research, such as the development of new drugs, medical devices, and imaging agents that have the potential to transform the ways we fight this family of diseases. And yet there are relatively few cancer institutes that take a basic science approach to their work.

I came to Notre Dame because of the rare opportunity to direct just such an institute.

This University excels in basic, exploratory science, and not just in chemistry and biology but also physics, mathematics, and the engineering disciplines. Before accepting the position in Notre Dame’s Harper Cancer Research Institute (HCRI), which at that point was still several months away from officially opening its doors, I asked everyone I met with, from junior faculty to those with endowed professorships, whether they were interested in a collaborative basic cancer research institute; the answer was an overwhelming “yes.”

Many of these individuals, whom I’m now privileged to call my colleagues, indicated that they had outstanding tools for tackling complex challenges but required collaborators from other fields to determine what questions needed asking. HCRI has made it possible for these interdisciplinary partnerships to thrive.

For instance, we have had the good fortune to be able to award pilot grants to interdisciplinary teams of scientists addressing a cancer-specific problem. It is inspiring to see the novel and creative ideas that are put forth when scientists from different departments integrate their ideas toward a common goal.

Cancer may not yet be cured, but I am excited to be part of a university committed to the type of research that could one day make those cures a reality.

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