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Professor Ashok Saluja obtained his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Punjab, India before moving to the US where he obtained his doctoral degree in Biochemistry from Washington State University and completed his post doc at Cornell. He then spent twenty years at Harvard, after which he joined University of Massachusetts Medical School. In 2006, Dr. Saluja joined the faculty of the Department of Surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School as Professor and Vice Chair. He also holds the Sit Family Chair in Pancreatic and GI Cancer Research as well as a University of Minnesota McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair.
The American Cancer Society’s has estimated that around 49,000 people in the US alone will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015. Dr Saluja is internationally renowned for his work on the pathogenesis of pancreatitis. His group has shown that pancreatic tumors overexpress Heat Shock Protein 70 and its inhibition causes death of these cells not only in in vitro settings, but also in mouse models of pancreatic cancer. Dr Saluja’s group has been successful in developing a small molecule which they have named Minnelide, a drug extracted from the lei gong ten or ‘thunder god vine’ (Tripterygium wilfordii). The compound is effective in several models of pancreatic cancer and entered Phase I clinical trials in 2013.
Dr Saluja said about his work on this most aggressive of cancers, “I start imagining that one day, and the one day in my lifetime is very soon,” he said, “Maybe this curse of pancreatic cancer will be over.”
Dr. Saluja has published more than 120 original research papers along with review articles and book chapters. He is an inventor on two patents and is also Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder of a start-up biotechnology company.