2019 Recipient — Kris Wood, PhD

Kris Wood, PhD

Precision Targeting of Altered Mitochondrial States in Ovarian Cancer

Project Summary

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S., with an estimated 22,000 new cases and 14,000 deaths each year. Most ovarian cancer deaths (~70%) occur in patients with advanced, high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGS-OvCa). Unfortunately, this disease spreads in the abdomen early during the course of disease and is often already disseminated on diagnosis, meaning that surgery alone is not enough to cure patients, who also require systemic therapies. Sadly, existing systemic therapies rarely cure these patients. In 2014, with funding from a Liz Tilberis Early Career Award, we launched an ambitious, multidisciplinary research program at Duke University devoted to using advanced genomic techniques and cellular disease models to discover new therapies for HGS-OvCa, then translating those therapies to patients through clinical trials conducted at Duke.

This project builds on the robust program we have developed during the past four years and the major discoveries emanating from this program. We propose a series of focused studies to evaluate the first two therapies arising from this program, which our data suggest will have activity in biomarker-defined HGS-OvCa patient populations. This project is likely to provide the critical data necessary to drive the design of clinical trials to test these therapies in patients while also providing a critical funding bridge for our research program while we compete for large scale funding from the NIH.

This research has been generously supported by Newk’s Cares, and Ovarian Cycle, Jackson, MS.


Kris C. Wood, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke University.  He received his B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Kentucky, where he was recognized with the outstanding sophomore, junior, and senior awards in Chemical Engineering, the Tau Beta Pi outstanding senior award in the College of Engineering, and a Barry M. Goldwater scholarship in science and mathematics.  He received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he developed self-assembling polymeric systems for controlled gene and drug delivery under the supervision of Professors Paula Hammond, Ph.D. and Robert Langer, Sc.D.  As an NIH and Misrock Fund postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of David Sabatini, M.D., Ph.D. at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, his work focused on the development of functional genomic tools to study the determinants of anticancer drug sensitivity.

Dr. Wood’s lab at Duke uses new functional and computational genomic approaches to identify novel tumor vulnerabilities and strategies for circumventing therapeutic resistance. He has received the Liz Tilberis Early Career Award from the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, Scholar Awards from the V Foundation, Stewart Trust, Forbeck Foundation, Whitehead Foundation, and the NIH BIRCWH Program, and research awards from the Lloyd Trust, Golfers Against Cancer, NIH, and American Association for Cancer Research.


Read a short Q&A with Dr. Wood