Giulio Draetta, M.D., Ph.D.

Director, Institute for Applied Cancer Science
Professor, Genomic Medicine
South Campus Research Building 3 6.3418
1901 East Road

Houston TX 77054

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Giulio Draetta trained as a physician at the University of Naples Medical School, Italy. He then pursued a postgraduate degree in Biochemistry and performed postdoctoral research at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda and at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York. Subsequently, he became an investigator at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and then at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany. In 1992, he returned to the USA to establish Mitotix, a biotechnology company focused on drug discovery in the areas of cancer, immunosuppression and infectious diseases. Dr. Draetta then returned to academia as a founding member of the Department of Experimental Oncology of the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy. While in Italy, he held a joint appointment with Pharmacia Oncology where he managing the Oncology portfolio, which resulted in several IND approvals including SU11248 (Sutent®), as well as Aurora and Cdk small molecule inhibitors. In 2004, Dr. Draetta joined Merck Research Laboratories, as Executive Director and Head of Oncology Research in Boston. In 2007, he was promoted to Vice President and World Wide Basic Franchise Head, Oncology. In 2008, Dr. Draetta was appointed Dana Farber Presidential Scholar and Deputy Director of the Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Draetta was also Chief Research Business Development Officer at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Since September 2011, Dr. Draetta has served as the director of the newly established Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS) and is a professor in the Department of Genomic Medicine.

A rotation in the Draetta lab will provide a unique opportunity to train with an academic research scientist that truly understands the challenges and opportunities that surround an effective translation research program. His lab is currently composed of only ten members, which will ensure that you will receive personalized guidance and training directly from Dr. Draetta.

Genomic Medicine is a vibrant department focused on identifying genetic alterations in human cancers using genomics and bioinformatics and elucidating their function in sophisticated disease models. The Department is currently composed of the laboratories of Drs. Chin, DePinho, Draetta and Futreal. The Department is located in the newly constructed South Campus Research Building 4 and is equipped with state-of-the-art sequencing, cell and molecular biology laboratories. Genomic Medicine also works closely with and draws on the experience of the scientists at the IACS. Genomic Medicine has a weekly lab meeting in which all labs participate, which creates a collegial environment of cross discipline science.

Currently Dr. Draetta’s research efforts are focused on identifying genetic elements that lead to melanoma, glioblastoma and pancreatic cancer. Patients with these aggressive lethal cancers currently have few effective therapeutic options. An in-depth understanding of the signaling mechanisms in these cancers is needed to allow the rational development of effective targeted therapies. MD Anderson and specifically the Draetta Lab are uniquely positioned to conduct translational research due to ready access to patient samples, a strong interdisciplinary research community, cutting edge technology and the drive to rapidly translate research discoveries into improved patient care.  

In collaboration with IACS, Dr. Draetta’s lab has developed a functional genomics screening platform to identify context-specific targets, where lineage, genetic and microenvironmental influences are carefully controlled. This novel approach is transformative because it will allow for the rapid identification of multiple targets, which will be validated under in vivo conditions and will provide candidate therapeutic targets and associated biomarkers. Specifically, libraries of genetic-elements of interest (either cDNAs or shRNAs) are introduced into genetically defined target cells that are either freshly isolated from patients’ tumors or derived from normal cells engineered to express various signature mutations. These cells are then orthotopically injected into mice and in vivo tumorigenicity is determined. A unique aspect of this platform allows for the specific genetic elements driving or suppressing tumor latency to be identified and prioritized for target validation. This novel platform will provide opportunities to rapidly evaluating hundreds of potential cancer targets simultaneously.