Jan. 10, 2019:

The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium (Big Ten CRC) recently named Thomas G. Sors, PhD, assistant director of the Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease (PI4D), to the Big Ten CRC Steering Committee, representing the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research.

The Big Ten CRC Steering Committee comprises one representative from each member institution and meets regularly to review activities and guide policies for the consortium.

Dr. Sors, who also serves as senior administrator and manager of Purdue’s affiliation with the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (Indiana CTSI) and is co-chair of the Big Ten CRC’s Correlative Sciences Clinical Trial Working Group, brings a strong background in biomedical research solutions for cellular and molecular analyses and in converging collaborations with teams of investigators.

His interest in cancer research began while completing his doctorate at Purdue University.

“I was trained in molecular biology and analytical chemistry techniques to engineer the metabolism of plants and use them as ‘biofactories’ to produce anti-cancer selenium compounds like methyl-selenocysteine” Dr. Sors said. “As a scientist, I was always motivated to work on applied projects that had some pragmatic value and could benefit humans.”

In 2010, Dr. Sors was hired at Purdue University as the Center Project Manager of the Bindley Bioscience Center (BBC), a multidisciplinary research center with service core facilities that provide analytical solutions for life scientists, including faculty that do cancer research. This one-stop shop for translational research is home to the Indiana CTSI at Purdue.

Providing a service-for-fee model, the BBC provides services including a robust mass spectrometry laboratory (for proteomic and metabolomics applications); extensive imaging & microscopy platforms, flow cytometry and cell sorting capabilities; biophysical analysis of macromolecules, in vivo pharmacological testing; and computational biology services.

Using his strong analytical background, Dr. Sors became a link to the services and resources offered at the BBC and throughout Purdue University. “Many investigators continue to rely on me when seeking instrumentation or collaborations at Purdue, and I have colleagues, counterparts that have a similar role at Indiana University School of Medicine and the University of Notre Dame that I can rely on through the Indiana CTSI,” said Dr. Sors. “We are a vast network that spans all of Indiana for access to our translational resources.”

Purdue University has a school of veterinary medicine, rather than a medical school, leveraging strengths in preclinical research, correlative studies, biomedical engineering, drug discovery, and technology development. Dr. Sors said his involvement in the Big Ten CRC’s Correlative Sciences Clinical Trial Working Group has been a great way to share information about Purdue University’s resources and learn about what other universities have to offer.

“By being involved in the correlative working group for clinical trials I get to identify ways by which we can converge our resources and maximize the efficiency of use for each precious sample collected during a clinical trial,” Dr. Sors said. “I welcome the opportunity to learn more about the facilities and expertise at the partner institutions that could benefit the consortium and enhance the work we do together.”

“We can start developing ideas that could be relevant for other types of cancers and be better prepared for when we design clinical trials,” Dr. Sors said.

Dr. Sors sees himself as a convener and finds his involvement with the consortium to be extremely valuable.

“It’s valuable for me because I work to connect people to other people, potential collaborators, and resources that can help answer questions to their complex science,” Dr. Sors said. “The more knowledge I have about what is happening regionally or what is happening within the Big Ten and what resources are available within the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium, the better equipped I am to be able to make more significant connections and bring efficient solutions to the table.”

Dr. Sors joined PI4D in 2016 as assistant director, where one of his responsibilities is to form teams of faculty around the PI4D’s four areas of research, including imaging and diagnostics, immunology and inflammation, infectious diseases, and control and intervention.

“There is a lot of dynamic movement in PI4D that keeps me excited. We are forming a new Molecular Evolution, Protein Engineering, and Production facility that will be a hub for discovery for our immunologists and protein scientists,” Dr. Sors said. “We will be developing and discovering novel proteins and antibodies for therapeutic and diagnostic applications.”

Exploring new types of diagnostics that can detect the early onset of diseases such as cancer is one of the priorities for PI4D. Recently, Dr. Sors ran the “Disease Diagnostics INventors Challenge,” an event designed to catalyze the development of new disease detection technologies through a competitive application process that spurs the formation of multidisciplinary teams of clinicians, life scientists, engineers, and analytical chemists. The event brought top-tier institutions in Indiana together to start forming collaborative teams that will compete in spring 2019.

About the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium: The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium was created in 2013 to transform the conduct of cancer research through collaborative, hypothesis-driven, highly translational oncology trials that leverage the scientific and clinical expertise of Big Ten universities. The goal of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium is to create a unique team-research culture to drive science rapidly from ideas to new approaches to cancer treatment. Within this innovative environment, today’s research leaders collaborate with and mentor the research leaders of tomorrow with the unified goal of improving the lives of all patients with cancer.

About the Big Ten Conference: The Big Ten Conference is an association of world-class universities whose member institutions share a common mission of research, graduate, professional and undergraduate teaching and public service. Founded in 1896, the Big Ten has sustained a comprehensive set of shared practices and policies that enforce the priority of academics in the lives of students competing in intercollegiate athletics and emphasize the values of integrity, fairness and competitiveness. The broad-based programs of the 14 Big Ten institutions will provide over $200 million in direct financial support to almost 9,500 students for more than 11,000 participation opportunities on 350 teams in 42 different sports. The Big Ten sponsors 28 official conference sports, 14 for men and 14 for women, including the addition of men’s ice hockey and men’s and women’s lacrosse since 2013. For more information, visit www.bigten.org.