Associate Director, Integrated Cancer Research Center
Co-Director, Regenerative Engineering and Medicine Research Center
Susan Napier Thomas holds the Woodruff Professorship and is a Professor (full) with tenure of Mechanical Engineering in the Parker H. Petit Institute of Bioengineering and Bioscience at the Georgia Institute of Technology where she holds adjunct appointments in Biomedical Engineering and Biological Science and is a member of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. Prior to this appointment, she was a Whitaker postdoctoral scholar at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (one of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology) and received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering with an emphasis in Bioengineering cum laude from the University of California Los Angeles and her Ph.D. in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department as a NSF Graduate Research Fellow from The Johns Hopkins University. For her contributions to the emerging field of immunoengineering, she has been honored with the 2022 Award for Young Investigator from Elsevier's journal Biomaterials for "outstanding contributions to the field" of biomaterials science, the 2018 Young Investigator Award from the Society for Biomaterials for "outstanding achievements in the field of biomaterials research" and the 2013 Rita Schaffer Young Investigator Award from the Biomedical Engineering Society "in recognition of high level of originality and ingenuity in a scientific work in biomedical engineering." Her interdisciplinary research program is supported by multiple awards on which she serves as PI from the National Cancer Institute, the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, amongst others.
Petit Biotechnology Building, Office 2315
Georgia Institute of Technology
Thomas's research focuses on the role of biological transport phenomena in physiological and pathophysiological processes. Her laboratory specializes in incorporating mechanics with cell engineering, biochemistry, biomaterials, and immunology in order to 1) elucidate the role mechanical forces play in regulating seemingly unrelated aspects of tumor progression such as metastasis and immune suppression as well as 2) develop novel immunotherapeutics to treat cancer. Cancer progression is tightly linked to the ability of malignant cells to exploit the immune system to promote survival. Insight into immune function can therefore be gained from understanding how tumors exploit immunity. Conversely, this interplay makes the concept of harnessing the immune system to combat cancer an intriguing approach. Using an interdisciplinary approach, we aim to develop a novel systems-oriented framework to quantitatively analyze immune function in cancer. This multifaceted methodology to study tumor immunity will not only contribute to fundamental questions regarding how to harness immune response, but will also pave the way for novel engineering approaches to treat cancer such as with vaccines and cell- or molecular-based therapies.
Research Affiliations: Marcus Center for Therapeutic Cell Characterization and Manufacturing (MC3M), Regenerative Engineering and Medicine (REM), Integrated Cancer Research Center, Immunoengineering, Center for ImmunoEngineering, Center for Drug Design Development & Delivery, Biomaterials