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Oct. 19, 2015 -- Meet the Researcher: Dr. Gary Piazza

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WHO HE IS: Chief, Drug Discovery Research Center, Abraham A. Mitchell Distinguished Investigator, Program Director of Drug Discovery and Chemoprevention, Professor of Oncologic Sciences and Pharmacology, Co-founder of ADT Pharmaceuticals Inc.

LATEST RESEARCH: Dr. Piazza and his team are excited by their discovery of a novel series of compounds that completely suppresses tumor growth and even eliminates tumors in mice. The compounds potently and selectively inhibit the cancer-driving oncoprotein called Ras that has eluded cancer researchers for decades and is considered by many to be “non-druggable.”

“Everything we’ve seen to date tells us we’re onto something unique and powerful,” said Piazza, who plans to present the discovery at several upcoming international conferences.

Dr. Piazza’s research is supported in part by grants from the National Cancer Institute and the Austin Lacey family.

WORK HISTORY: Dr. Piazza was recruited to MCI from Southern Research and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he worked as a Principal Scientist, Adjunct Associate Professor and Program Director for an NIH-designated Molecular Libraries Screening Center at Southern Research.

From 2001-03, Dr. Piazza served as Director of Pharmacology and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Pharmacology at the CTRC Institute for Drug Development and the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio, Texas. From 1993 to 2001, he was Senior Director of Biology at Cell Pathways Inc., a successful start-up pharmaceutical company. Prior positions had taken him to The Procter & Gamble Co., Brown University and Fox Chase Cancer Center.

EDUCATION: Dr. Piazza earned a bachelor’s degree from Dominican University in Chicago in 1981 and a Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1986.

FUN FACTS: A native of Elgin IL, a suburb of Chicago, Dr. Piazza is an avid Cubs fan. “Hopefully this will be the year the Cubs go to the World Series,” he said in October 2015.

He and his wife, Nancy, live in Daphne. They have three adult children: Julie, who lives in Atlanta and is mother to their two grandchildren; Nicholas, a resident in internal medicine at the University of North Carolina; and Tyler, who will be graduating from Auburn University this year and plans to enter a Ph.D. program, following his father’s interest in biomedical research.



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