Consortium Members

Corinne Linardic, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
Duke University of Medicine

Dr. Linardic completed her MDPhD training at Duke, with her dissertation focusing on the role of sphingolipids in cancer signaling including identifying the role for ceramide in apoptosis. She completed her pediatrics residency and clinical fellowship training in pediatric hematology-oncology at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She then joined Christopher Counter, PhD, for a post-doctoral fellowship at Duke where she developed new models of RAS-driven embryonal and PAX3-FOXO1-driven alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) based on the stepwise transformation of primary human myoblasts to their malignant counterpart using defined sets of oncogenes. Since joining the Duke faculty, she has used in vitro and in vivo systems to interrogate and identify the dysregulated signaling in RMS, with emphasis on developmental pathways including Wnt, Notch and Hippo and how they can be exploited for novel therapeutic approaches. Clinically, Dr. Linardic cares for patients on the inpatient hematology-oncology service and has leadership roles in the international Children's Oncology Group and soft tissue sarcoma INSTRUCT consortia.

Elizabeth Almerinda Mendes, MS
Doctoral Student
Cell and Molecular Biology Program
Duke University School of Medicine

Elizabeth is a member of the Cell and Molecular Biology program and is affiliated with the Pharmacology and Cancer Biology department. Her research focuses on the Hippo pathway’s modulation of rhabdomyosarcoma in both in vivo mouse, and in vitro cell culture models. Prior to coming to Duke, she received her MS from Central Connecticut State University where she studied dopamine signaling in C. elegans. Elizabeth also studied rheumatoid arthritis at the University of Connecticut Health Center and has a BS in biology from the University of Evansville where she participated in research and grant writing.

Christopher Counter, PhD
George Barth Geller Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology
Professor Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Assistant Professor in Radiation Oncology
Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
Duke University School of Medicine

Dr. Counter's early work identified the cancer hallmark of immortalization, which was driven by activation of the enzyme telomerase during tumorigenesis. This discovery allowed him to reconstruct the cell intrinsic events required to replicate tumorigenesis, a platform his lab used to develop a number of cancer models. One of the critical genes for this reconstruction was the oncogene RAS. His lab further explored how the encoded oncoprotein signals to promote tumorigenesis, which led to a number of novel signaling pathways, including a reliance on nitric oxide, copper, and mitochondrial morphology. His lab currently focuses on how RAS mutations first arise in cancer, and how different RAS isoforms or mutations drive different cancer types. Dr. Counter serves as the associate director for basic research for the Duke Cancer Institute, on the Board of Scientific Advisors for the National Cancer Institute, and on the Scientific Advisory Board of the University of Colorado Cancer Center. He has mentored 20 graduate students and 12 postdoctoral fellows and served as the president of the Cancer Biology Training Consortium.

Seth Zimmerman, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Counter Lab
Duke University School of Medicine

Dr. Zimmerman received his PhD from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he studied cell migration and metastasis using optogenetic approaches. He currently studies novel oncogenic pathways using screening technology to aid in identifying new therapeutic targets

Kris Wood, PhD
Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Core Faculty in Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
Duke University School of Medicine

Dr. Wood's lab uses tools from pharmacology, genomics, and cell signaling to study cancer cell death regulation and tumor evolution. A common theme among these studies is the coupling of large-scale, unbiased genomic and pharmacological approaches with mechanistic studies using the classic tools of biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology. Collectively, these studies have led to novel, fundamental mechanistic insights into the core survival circuitry operating in defined human tumor subsets as well as novel translational therapeutics.

Christopher Delaney
MD/PhD Student
Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Wood Lab
Duke University School of Medicine

Prior to starting medical school at Duke in 2017, Christopher graduated from the University of Chicago in 2014 with a BS in cancer biology. As an undergraduate, he worked in Shohei Koide’s lab, studying protein design in cancer signaling. While applying to medical school, he also spent time working as a research technologist in Scott Armstrong’s lab at Dana Farber and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), focusing on work in pediatric leukemias.

Yarui Diao, PhD
Assistant Professor of Cell Biology
Duke University School of Medicine

Dr. Diao received his PhD in biochemistry from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. During his PhD training, he investigated transcriptional regulation and signaling transductions in muscle stem cell and rhabdomyosarcoma. For postdoc training, with the support of a Human Frontier Science Program fellowship, he joined Dr. Bing Ren’s group, a lab well known for utilizing cutting-edge genomics technology to study non-coding cis-regulatory elements. At the University of California San Diego, he developed high-throughput CRISPR/Cas9 screen strategies for genome-wide functional characterization of non-coding regulatory sequence in the native chromatin context. He also studied the long-range enhancer-promoter interactions on gene promoters in 27 human tissue and cell types. In September 2018, he started his own lab at Duke in the Department of Cell Biology, where he continued his efforts in developing cutting-edge technologies to study gene regulation mechanisms determining muscle regeneration and RMS tumorigenesis. As an independent Principal Investigator, Dr. Diao has received the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) Genomic Innovator Award, V Foundation Scholar for Cancer Research, Glenn Foundation for Medical Research (GFMR) and AFAR Grant for Junior Faculty, and was named a Duke University Whitehead Scholar. In this U54 project, the Diao lab aims to to delineate the transcriptional control mechanism driving P3F1 oncogene expression.

Derek Peters, MD, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Cell Biology
Diao Lab
Duke University Medical Center

Dr. Peters received his MD and PhD from Harvard Medical School and was a member of the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology (HST). His PhD research in the laboratories of Dr. Chad Cowan and Dr. Kiran Musunuru focused on the application of genome editing and human pluripotent stem cells to characterize genetic variation underlying common human diseases. Dr. Peters joined the Diao lab in 2020 as a postdoctoral fellow after completing two years of clinical training in general surgery at Duke. He is studying gene regulation during skeletal muscle regeneration and investigating how abnormal regeneration may contribute to the development of human diseases including critical limb ischemia.

Angela Koehler, PhD
Associate Professor of Biological Engineering, MIT
Samuel A. Goldblith Career Development Professor in Applied Biology, MIT
Intramural Faculty, David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research
Institute Member, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT
Member, MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine

Dr. Koehler received her BA in biochemistry and molecular biology from Reed College in 1997. There she worked under the guidance of Professor Arthur Glasfeld on structural and biochemical studies of proteins that recognize tRNA or DNA. In 2003, she received her PhD in chemistry from Harvard University where she worked with Professor Stuart Schreiber to develop novel technologies for identifying and characterizing interactions between proteins and small molecules. Upon graduation, she became an Institute Fellow in the Chemical Biology Program at the Broad Institute and a Group Leader for the NCI Initiative for Chemical Genetics. Her research group aims to discover and develop functional small-molecule probes of targets emerging from patient-based genomics, including targets deemed recalcitrant to small molecule drug discovery efforts, such as transcription factors, RNA-binding proteins or cytokines. Selected probes may be developed into imaging agents, diagnostic tools, or therapeutic leads.

Sean Quinnell, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Biological Engineering
Koehler Lab
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. Quinnell received his PhD in chemistry from Boston University in 2022 where he worked in Arturo Vegas’ lab on developing small molecule inhibitors to cytokines and targeted strategies for treating Type 1 diabetes. He is now a postdoctoral associate in Angela Koehler’s Lab at MIT where his research is focused on identifying small molecule probes to the fusion protein PAX3-FOXO1 using high throughput and biophysical approaches to aide in therapeutic development for alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma.

David Root, PhD
Senior Director of the Genetic Perturbation Platform and the Functional Genomics Consortium
Institute Scientist
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Since launching the Genetic Perturbation Platform and the Functional Genomics Consortium (previously The RNAi Consortium – TRC) in 2004, Dr. Root and his colleagues have created some of the world’s most widely used libraries and tools for RNA interference, gene expression, and CRISPR-based screens, and have pioneered methods to employ these and other tools for functional genomics. In addition to developing new strategies and tools for functional genomics, Dr. Root and his team collaborate with scientists in the Broad community at Harvard, MIT, and the Harvard-affiliated hospitals for gene function discovery in diverse areas of biology. Dr. Root was previously assistant professor of physical chemistry at Swarthmore College, and then transitioned to biological research with postdoctoral work in the Stockwell laboratory at the Whitehead Institute. Dr. Root received his BA in chemistry from Swarthmore College and PhD in physical chemistry from Stanford University.

Nicole Persky, PhD
Staff Scientist
Genetic Perturbation Platform 
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Dr. Persky is a staff scientist in the Genetic Perturbation Platform of the Broad Institute, under the direction of David Root. In this position, she helps collaborators in experiments spanning Deep Mutational Scanning, CRISPR, and ORF pooled screening specializing in the design and structural interpretation of mutagenesis screens for therapeutic targets. Prior to 2019, Dr. Persky was a research scientist in the Broad Institute’s Cancer Program in the lab of Cory Johannessen, where she primarily interpreted and validated deep mutational scanning drug-resistant screening data for a variety of oncogenic proteins. She was previously a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Nikola Pavletich in the Department of Structural Biology of Sloan Kettering Cancer Center studying Fanconi anemia proteins. Her experience in structural biology has facilitated our understanding of dense screening data in three dimensions to generate testable biological hypothesis regarding drug resistance. Dr. Persky received her PhD from Brandeis University while studying in the lab of Susan Lovett for her work focused on clarifying how a DNA replication stress response GTPase functions at the interface of cell cycle control, nutrient availability and DNA replication fidelity in the model system of E. coli.

David Langenau, PhD
Associate Investigator, Department of Pathology, Massachusetts General Hospital
Associate Professor of Pathology, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Langenau completed his PhD training at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute with Tom Look, MD, where he developed the first transgenic model of zebrafish cancer. He then joined Len Zon, MD for fellowship, where he developed a new model of embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, establishing this as a stem cell driven disease and the prominence of the RAS pathway in the genesis of this subtype of cancer. Since joining the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) faculty 12 years ago, his team has continued to work in the areas of acute lymphoblastic leukemia and rhabdomyosarcoma, publishing works defining the stem cell pathways that drive pediatric cancer and extending findings from zebrafish to human disease. Dr. Langenau has most recently innovated new immune deficient zebrafish models to grow human cancer and has utilized this platform to dynamically visualize preclinical therapy responses in vivo at single cell resolution.

Jack Shern, PhD
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar and Investigator
Pediatric Oncology Branch
National Cancer Institute, Bethesda

After completing undergraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame, Dr. Shern received his MD from the Medical College of Georgia in 2007. This was followed by pediatric internship and residency training at the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital, which he completed in 2010. He then joined the combined Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Fellowship training program at the National Cancer Institute, Pediatric Oncology Branch (POB) and Johns Hopkins University. He specializes in discovery of the genomic and transcriptomic mechanisms of oncogenesis in pediatric soft tissue sarcomas including rhabdomyosarcoma. Dr. Shern is currently the laboratory head for the Tumor Evolution and Genomics Section which utilizes high throughput genomics and drug screens to discover novel therapies for children with relapsed and refractory tumors.

Becca Moreci, PhD
Project Manager, 2022- Present
FusOnC2 Research Center

Dr. Moreci is a PhD graduate from the Cell Biology and Dermatology Departments at Duke University, where she studied skin development in the lab of Dr. Terry Lechler. She possesses over 10 years of research experience in a wide array of sciences, ranging from cell biology, biochemistry, and cancer biology to reproductive health, immunology, and environmental sciences. As a project leader for the U54 team, Dr. Moreci employs project management techniques combined with her experience in life sciences and clinical research to ensure effective team communication and timely, efficient achievement of project goals.


Promila Pagadala, PhD
Project Manager, 2019-2022
FusOnC2 Research Center

Dr. Pagadala earned her doctorate under the mentorship of Kenneth Neet, MD at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science and completed her postdoctoral training in biomarkers for pain and inflammation with Fan Wang, PhD at Duke University. Dr. Pagadala is a certified project management professional (PMP) and utilizes best project management practices and her knowledge of the scientific, regulatory, intellectual property, and clinical requirements for successful translational of research projects.

Madeleine Henley, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Biological Engineering
Koehler Lab
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. Henley is currently working as a scientist at Foghorn Therapeutics in Cambridge, MA. Her work for the U54 examined direct targeting of oncogenic transcription factors with small molecules. She joined the Koehler FusOnC2 team, where her knowledge of organic chemistry, biology and biophysical techniques was instrumental in developing new probes for a variety of transcriptional targets in pediatric rhabdomyosarcoma. She previously led the small molecule discovery and optimization efforts targeting PAX3-FOXO1 in RMS, where she mainly focused on developing PROTAC-based strategies to degrade PAX3-FOXO1. Prior to joining the Koehler lab, Dr. Henley obtained her PhD in chemical biology from the University of Michigan, where she worked in the lab of Anna Mapp, PhD. For her dissertation work, she focused on biophysical and structural analysis of highly dynamic protein-protein interactions formed between transcription factors and transcriptional coactivators.