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Senior Advisor to the Director - Tom O'Halloran, PhD

Thomas O'Halloran, PhD, is widely known for his interdisciplinary research program which involves chemical synthesis, inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology and cell biology.  He has served in leadership positions within the Lurie Cancer Center since 1999, most recently as Associate Director for Basic Sciences Research.

Dr. O'Halloran is the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor in the Department of Chemistry and in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Cell Biology at Northwestern University, and Director the Chemistry of Life Processes (CLP) Institute. Established by Northwestern in 2004, the CLP brings together investigators in chemistry, engineering, biology and medicine, fostering a new wave of innovation, and providing both basic and real world scientific outcomes derived from the molecular basis of life. Strong collaborations between the CLP and the Lurie Cancer Center are representative of Northwestern’s interdisciplinary approach to cancer research. 

Dr. O'Halloran's research interests focus on the regulatory biology and chemistry of intracellular metal receptors involved in signaling, trafficking and differentiation pathways. Recent work in his group has led to the development of new types of therapeutic agents for the targeted delivery of well-established cytotoxic agents (organic and inorganic) to cancer cells. These ongoing nanotechnology studies have led to new multifunctional anticancer agents. Dr. O'Halloran's research also focuses on how metals control cellular growth and proliferation. The interdisciplinary approach employs genetics, structural biology, synthetic chemistry and biochemistry to understand the function of novel intracellular regulatory and trafficking receptors for zinc, copper and iron. These studies reveal mechanisms of oxidative damage, mechanisms of metal trafficking by metallochaperones and molecular mechanisms of gene regulation by metalloregulatory proteins. Results from his lab provide a basis for understanding the mechanisms of anticancer drugs, such as those containing platinum and arsenic, and guides the development of agents with improved therapeutic index.

Dr. O’Halloran’s scientific recognitions include the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award, National Searle Scholars Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Teacher-Scholar Award, and the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Schering-Plough Scientific Achievement Award. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, and received a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health.