The Scripps Research Institute has appointed Joseph Kissil, PhD, as an associate professor and Matthew Pipkin, PhD, as an assistant professor, both in the Department of Cancer Biology.
“It’s a pleasure to announce the appointment of these two terrific investigators who are pushing the envelope in their respective fields,” said John Cleveland, a Scripps Research professor and head of the Department of Cancer Biology. “Joe works on regulators that cause lung, pancreas, and liver cancer, and a rare tumor called neurofibromatosis, and upon the tumor microenviroment, while most of Matthew’s studies are focused on epigenetic control of cytotoxic T cells and memory T cells, which are essential for immune surveillance in cancer and in combating infectious diseases. The new arenas being tackled by these talented investigators are critical to the future development of new and more effective cancer treatments. We extend a warm welcome to them both.”
Prior to joining Scripps Florida, Kissil, 45, was an associate professor at The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, PA, as well as a member of the Graduate Group in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Pennsylvania.
“At Scripps Florida there are few barriers between scientists—you have chemistry, drug metabolism, and basic biology research, all geared to collaboration,” said Kissil, who lives in Jupiter. “On top of that, the translational research institute and services such as the high throughput screening core make a fantastic combination.”
Kissil received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Ben-Gurion University in Israel and a PhD in molecular biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. He did postdoctoral work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In 2001, he received a Young Investigator Award from the Neurofibromatosis Foundation and in 2003, the R.L. Kirchstein National Research Service Award. In 2010, Kissil was named an American Cancer Society Research Scholar.
Kissil’s work focuses on the mechanisms that maintain normal tissue balance and how these become deregulated in cancer. Kissil has long been interested in the role the tumor microenvironment plays in cancer growth and how the deregulation of various signaling pathways, such as those that relay information from the extracellular environment into the cell interior, can contribute to the disease. “We’re interested in the molecular basis for disease, particularly cancer,” he said. “As we made discoveries, we decided we wanted to take that extra step into translation of the science to potential therapies. To accomplish that, Scripps Florida was the obvious choice.”
Before joining Scripps Florida, Pipkin, 37, held a junior faculty position at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology.
Pipkin, a Florida native who now lives in Juno Beach, received a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and immunology from the University of Miami in 1998, and a PhD in microbiology and immunity in 2005 from the same institution. He did postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School.
“It’s an honor to become part of Scripps Florida,” Pipkin said. “Coming back to Florida was a big draw, and Scripps Florida is at the leading edge of what science and the state has to offer—plus it has an entrepreneurial spirit that I found nowhere else.”
Pipkin’s research interests are in the study of chromatin, the cluster of proteins that compact the DNA of chromosomes in the cell nucleus; like a meticulous butler, chromatin dynamically packs the DNA in different ways in different cell types to help prevent damage and to help ensure that only certain genes are accessible for transcription as cells become more specialized. His lab specifically focuses on understanding how chromatin regulates accessibility to genes that promote the differentiation of cytotoxic lymphocytes, immune system cells that directly kill cancer cells.
“My research dovetails with the reasons I came to Scripps Florida and to cancer biology,” he said. “We want to understand the basics of how chromatin controls gene expression, and how that underlies cell differentiation—cancer is in many ways an aberrant form of differentiation, which at its roots is a gene expression problem and controlled by chromatin. Second, we want to use what we know about cytotoxic lymphocyte differentiation to develop new therapies and vaccines that elicit durable cytotoxic lymphocyte responses. The resources and faculty here will let us try some bold new approaches.”