Georg Wondrak, Ph.D. was recruited as an Assistant Professor in 2005 to the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Mentored by SWEHSC members Drs’ Elaine and Myron Jacobson, Dr. Wondrak has developed into an independent researcher and well-rounded academician.
Dr. Wondrak’s research has contributed to significant progress in the following research areas: (i) Identification of drug-like molecules that enhance skin cell resistance to photo-oxidative stress through Nrf2 transcriptional activation potentially opens a completely novel approach for solar skin protection and chemoprevention of ultraviolet light-induced skin cancer, a public health concern of ever increasing importance in the American Southwest [performed in close collaboration with SWEHSC member Donna D. Zhang]. (ii) Feasibility of designing and developing experimental redox chemotherapeutics that target human melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer through induction of prooxidant deviations from redox homeostasis has been demonstrated which has resulted in 5 publications. (iii) Identification of zinc pyrithione (an FDA-approved topical antimicrobial and active ingredient used abundantly in OTC skin care products worldwide) as a potent heat shock response inducer with genotoxic activity in cultured primary human skin cells raises serious safety concerns that are currently being validated by advanced toxicological studies performed in reconstructed tissue models and human skin in vivo. (iv) Strong experimental evidence has been obtained supporting the causative involvement of endogenous skin photosensitizers as crucial mediators of skin photooxidative damage in response to solar ultraviolet light exposure [performed in close collaboration with SWEHSC member Elaine L. Jacobson].
SWEHSC membership has provided substantial benefit to Dr. Wondrak by: (i) facilitating intense research collaborations with other center members including Elaine L. Jacobson and Donna D. Zhang. (ii) (ii) Providing support for a pilot project entitled ‘Topical Nrf2-activators for skin photoprotection and chemoprevention of skin cancer’ [funding period 1/1/07-12/31/07; co-PI: Donna D. Zhang, College of Pharmacy, University of Arizona]. Results were published in 2008/2009 and provided strong preliminary data in support of a joint NIEHS-supported RO1 grant application (Co-PIs: G.T. Wondrak & D.D. Zhang) to be submitted in 2011. This interaction also brought these two young investigators together and produced a pending R21 grant application entitled "Targeting colorectal carcinogenesis using a cinnamon-derived food factor" submitted to NCI in June 2011. (iii) Enabling mentor-mentee-type relationships between Dr. Wondrak and senior SWEHSC members including Drs. Elaine L. Jacobson, Serrine S. Lau, and Terrence J. Monks. (iv). Facilitating project discussions and critical assessment by members of the external advisory board.