Mark Mercola

Mark Mercola, Ph.D.[La Jolla]

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country. At the moment, the only way to effectively replace lost heart muscle cells—called cardiomyocytes—is to transplant the entire heart. We think using a drug to create new heart muscle from stem cells would be far more appealing than heart transplantation.

  • Research

    Dr. Mercola's research is directed at discovering new therapeutics for heart failure and cancer.

  • Biography

    Mark Mercola, Ph.D., is a Professor in Sanford-Burnham’s Development, Aging, and Regeneration Program.

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Mark Mercola's Research Focus

Heart Disease, Cancer

Our lab seeks to enable new treatments for heart disease and cancer, both of which remain major causes of mortality and morbidity despite intense research efforts. For heart disease, our emphases are on maintaining contractility and stimulating regeneration during heart failure. Some of our recent advances include the discovery of microRNAs that impair cardiac function during failure, and the demonstration that inhibiting one particular microRNA using a therapeutic RNA molecule can halt the progression of heart failure symptoms in a mouse model. Another example is a small molecule that directs cardiac progenitor cells to form new heart muscle cells. For cancer, our focus has been on developing small molecules that target the control of cell division. One example is a highly potent small molecule that targets a single protein to simultaneously stabilize p53 and inhibit Wnt/β-catenin signaling, and has promising effects against colon cancer in an animal model.

Our strategy is to model complex disease processes in vitro, and then to apply use high throughput functional genomics and chemical biology approaches to identify potential drug targets. A major emphasis of the lab has been to work with the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics and Vala Sciences (San Diego) to develop and apply new optical screening technologies for image-based analysis of disease processes. This collaboration has led to instrumentation, software and stem cell-based assays for high throughput study of physiology such as muscle contraction and neuronal impulse propagation. Through such technological advances we hope to gain insights into basic disease mechanisms that will enable the development of novel therapeutics.

About Mark Mercola

Experience

Mark Mercola, Ph.D., is a Professor in Sanford-Burnham’s Development, Aging, and Regeneration Program, and Program Director of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) Training Program. His research focus is directed at discovering new therapeutics for heart disease and cancer. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, and trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Department of Microbiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, and was on the faculty of Harvard for over a decade before joining the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.

Dr. Mercola is an acknowledged leader in the field of tissue interactions and signaling molecules that control stem cell differentiation and heart formation. His current efforts are focused on discovering novel cellular targets for the development of drugs that would enhance myocardial regeneration and protection after ischemic or other injury.

Dr. Mercola co-founded the drug screening center at Sanford-Burnham, and employs high-throughput screening to identify molecules that can block heart failure and restore heart-muscle function. He also holds an appointment as Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at UCSD, and is the founder of ChemRegen. Inc., a San Diego biotech company focused on stem cell biology and drug development and EpikaBio, a Palo Alto start-up that is commercializing a biological therapeutic for preserving heart function after myocardial infarction. He is a recipient of the prestigious MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Health given for an outstanding record for scientific achievement.

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Education

• University of California, Los Angeles, BA, 1979, Microbiology
• University of California, Los Angeles, PhD, 1985, Molecular Biology

Other Appointments

• 2007-present Associate Director, Neurosciences, Aging and Stem Cell Research Center, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
• 2002-present Professor, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Department of Pathology and Pediatrics (adjunt), UCSD School of Medicine, La Jolla, CA
• 1998-2002 Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
• 1991-1997 Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
• 1985-1991 Research Fellow, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Funding Awards and Collaborative Grants

1991 - present Grants: NICHD, NHLBI,  American Heart Association, American Cancer Society

Honors and Recognition

• 2007 MERIT Award (National Institutes of Health)
• 1997 Established Investigator Award, American Heart Association
• 1991 - 1993 Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Award, March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
• 1989 Richard A. Smith Prize, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
• 1986 - 1989 American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship

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