Oct 10, 2018 10:00 AM
Gregory Ducker, PhD, has recently joined the University of Utah School of Medicine as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry. Originally from Saint Paul, Minnesota, Ducker graduated with a BA in chemistry from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He then moved to California to pursue a PhD in chemical biology at the University of California, Berkeley under the supervision of Kevan Shokat. Subsequently, he carried out postdoctoral work at Princeton University studying cancer metabolism with Joshua Rabinowitz. During his time at Princeton, Ducker was named a New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research fellow, received an American Cancer Society postdoctoral research fellowship, and an NIH/ National Cancer Institute K99/R00 pathway to independence award. He joined the faculty of the University of Utah in September 2018.
Ducker developed an early interest in how biochemical networks function in healthy and diseased cells. He was motivated by the ability of cancer cells to take the individual parts of healthy cells and reconfigure them to produce a diseased and unregulated tumor. In his PhD, he investigated how phosphosignaling networks that converge on the metabolic kinase mTOR control cell growth in cancer and how new first-in-class small molecule inhibitors of this kinase could be used therapeutically. Subsequently as a postdoc, his research detailed how cancer cells engage metabolic networks to supply the essential building blocks required for tumor growth. He developed mass spectrometry-based isotope tracing assays to uncover the precise mechanisms by which cancer cells acquire one-carbon units necessary to proliferate, highlighting potential new metabolic drug targets in the mitochondria. He then led the development of a new generation of inhibitors that specifically target serine metabolism in the mitochondria, producing compounds that have the potential to modify both tumor and immune metabolism. His research has been published in Nature, Cell Metabolism and PNAS and Ducker has been invited to present at domestic and international conferences. At Utah, Ducker’s research group will continue to interrogate tumor biochemistry using mass spectrometry with the goal of identifying new targetable metabolic vulnerabilities in cancer.
During his career, Ducker has had the opportunity to mentor many graduate and undergraduate students and he is excited to continue to share his enthusiasm and curiosity about biochemistry with students, helping them to grow and flourish as scientists. Outside of the lab, Ducker is passionate about the outdoors and is cannot wait to experience the four seasons of world-class outdoor opportunities in the Wasatch range.