Meet the Investigator – Daniel Billadeau, Ph.D.

My name is Dan Billadeau. I’m the chair of
the department of immunology as well as the deputy director for basic science
at the Cancer Center. I took a non-traditional route into graduate
school. I worked as a technician for six years before deciding to go into
graduate school and get my PhD. I didn’t initially go into cancer research. I
actually came down here as a fellow with Paul Lieberson and studied natural
killer cell biology. And then when I was ready to leave, Paul suggested that I
apply for a position that was open here in the division of oncology research. And
it was at that point that the chair the department said, “You know, you should
focus on cancer and identify potential targets that could be targeted
therapeutically.” And so we focused on pancreatic cancer. My predoc mentor was
Brian Van Ness at the University of Minnesota and Institute of Human
Genetics, so we work closely with the myeloma group here. My PhD work was all in multiple myeloma. From there, as I mentioned, I came here to work for Paul
Lieberson, and he was an outstanding mentor in NK cell biology. And subsequently
moving into the division and starting my own lab, I’d say Scott Kaufman’s been a
big influence in my my career. Well, I’m most excited about
immunotherapy, but I don’t do immunotherapy. But the cancer research
that we do in the lab is pancreatic cancer research, as I mentioned, and we’re developing new models of pancreatic cancer, new mouse models of pancreatic
cancer. But in addition, a discovery we made and published on in 2005 where we had
identified a specific molecule, a kinase called glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta,
as an important regulatory molecule in pancreatic cancer, has now been realized
as a target in the small molecule inhibitor that we were involved in
developing initially in pancreatic cancer is now in patients undergoing phase 1
testing here at Mayo Clinic and elsewhere around the country. So I’m
pretty excited about the discovery and 15 years later it’s actually going into
patients and hopefully we see some good benefit.

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