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Assistant Professor, Genetics  Director, LCCC Translational Genomics Lab (TGL)

Research Interests

Keywords: Assay Development, Cancer Biology, DNA Sequencing, RNA Sequencing, Single-Cell Sequencing, Spatial Transcriptomics, Translational Genomics, Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Core Website

As a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Chuck Perou in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, my research focused on identifying personalized drug targets for patients with basal-like breast tumors since targeted therapies against this aggressive subtype of breast cancer remained an important unmet clinical need. I identified novel drug targets using a comparative genomics approach with mouse models that I identified early in my graduate studies as being good human counterparts of triple-negative breast cancer. In addition to performing wet bench experiments, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to learn the bioinformatic skills necessary to analyze my own data and to contribute to numerous large-scale genomics collaborations.

In parallel to my graduate studies, I also obtained a Master of Engineering degree from NC State with a focus on materials science. I used this degree during my postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Mike Ramsey in the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Ramsey was in the early phase of developing a point-of-care microfluidic diagnostic platform that could quantify proteins and nucleic acids over a wide dynamic range and at low limits of detection. As a postdoc, I simultaneously performed assay development on the wet bench and then translated those optimized assays onto a sample-to-answer microfluidic breadboard reader. This worked involved significant optimization of assay chemistry to make it compatible with our microfluidic chips and reader. My work was instrumental in the design of more advanced prototypes and led Dr. Ramsey to promote me to research scientist. As a research scientist, I continued to work on this technology, redesigning the hybridization buffer and developing a custom PCR master mix that were freeze-dry compatible for long term storage on chip. My work helped form the foundation for the molecular diagnostic spin-off company, Codetta Bio.

As the director of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC) Translational Genomics Lab (TGL), I routinely draw on my years of successful collaborations and molecular experience to guide the daily operations of the lab and to interface with LCCC faculty as they seek to translate discoveries into clinical grade biomarkers. The TGL is a 1600 sq. ft., medium-throughput facility established in 2011 on UNC’s medical campus to provide comprehensive genomic services for investigators. TGL’s mission is to support translational human cancer genomics research by providing a resource that balances rigor and flexibility to meet the needs of academic and clinical research that can ultimately produce optimized and validated processes for adoption in clinical labs. TGL performs sample processing and analyses for the molecular, pathologic, and genomic characterization of patient-derived specimens in preclinical research projects and clinical protocols. Using automated platforms, the lab reproducibly performs NanoString assays, 10X Genomics single cell assays, spatial transcriptomic assays, nucleic acid extraction, library preparation, and next-generation sequencing (NGS) of tissue, cells, and blood samples. TGL was a library preparation site for the UNCseq clinical sequencing initiative (LCCC1108/NCT01457196) and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and has performed >12,000 NanoString assays, >14,000 nucleic acid extractions, >12,000 NGS library preparations, and >750 lanes of sequencing.

Mentor Training:

  • Faculty Mentoring Workshop for Biomedical Researchers
  • Unconscious Bias Awareness Training
  • Understanding and Responding to Microaggressions Workshop
  • UNC SOM Racial Justice Workshop
  • UNC SOM Respecting All Workshop

Training Program Affiliations:

Publications

Adam D. Pfefferle in UNC Genetics News

Adam Pfefferle