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01-23-2013

New Clarkson University Biology Chair Thomas Lufkin Researching Cure for Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a problem many experience with age.

Thomas LufkinThomas Lufkin, who joined Clarkson University’s faculty in January, is researching how to eliminate the pain Americans spend over $30 billion annually to treat.

“It’s a really huge problem economically and also in terms of patient suffering,” Lufkin said. “This is worldwide. Everybody has this problem.”

Lufkin is the new Bayard and Virginia Clarkson Endowed Chair of Biology at Clarkson. He moved to Potsdam from Singapore, where he had served as senior group leader of stem cell and developmental biology at the Genome Institute of Singapore since 2004.
 
Curing lower back pain could start simply by swabbing a patient’s mouth for cells, Lufkin said. He is researching ways to alter those cells and re-grow spinal discs that have deteriorated in lower back pain sufferers.

Lufkin is focused on an area of regenerative medicine that will benefit large segments of the population.

“It’s not hundreds of people you’re helping with this or thousands,” he said. ‘It’s millions of people who will want this.”

In Singapore, Lufkin helped develop the formula to repurpose cells for different parts of the body. His research at Clarkson will ensure the altered cells are a perfect match for the lower back. Lufkin looks forward to collaborating with students and professors throughout the University.

Lufkin received his bachelor of science degree in cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley and his doctoral degree in molecular biology from Cornell University. He completed postdoctoral research at the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics of Eucaryotes, Strasbourg, France.

He previously served as an associate professor of developmental biology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and as an adjunct faculty member at Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore.

Lufkin has five patents and was the recipient of the March of Dimes Basil O'Conner Award and the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in Neuroscience.

He is the editor-in-chief of the Cell and Developmental Biology Journal and serves on the editorial board of a dozen other scientific journals, including the American Journal of Stem Cells, the Journal of Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering, and the Journal of Stem Cell Research & Therapy.

Lufkin is the recipient of numerous grants from the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation and the March of Dimes, and is the author of more than 100 peer-reviewed publications. 

The chair is named for Bayard D. Clarkson, M.D. and Virginia C. Clarkson, who are long-time friends and benefactors of Clarkson University. Dr. Clarkson is a descendent of the Clarkson family, which founded the Thomas S. Clarkson Memorial College of Technology in 1896. 

Dr. Clarkson has served on Clarkson's board of trustees since 1967, serving 10 years as chair of the board. Virginia has generously provided her support throughout the years as a champion for the beautification of the Clarkson campus through enhanced landscaping and through her donation of proceeds from her poetry volumes.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/tlufkin.jpg.]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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