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Bruce Smith

Director of the Auburn University Research Initiative in Cancer
College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Bruce Smith is the director of the Auburn University Research Initiative in Cancer, a professor in the Department of Pathobiology and scientist in the Scott-Ritchey Research Center. He received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1988, where he was appointed a Kleberg Fellow in medical genetics. He received a Ph.D. in molecular biology and genetics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993. His long-range research interests are in gene therapy of inherited muscle diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, gene therapy of cancer and nucleic acid immunization.

1. What brought you to Auburn?

In 1993 I was recruited to the faculty of Auburn by Dr. Henry Baker, director of the Scott-Ritchey Research Center. He was in the process of forming a Molecular Medicine Program, which was at the cutting edge of applying molecular biology to understanding and treating disease. With the combination of a great program and excellent resources, it was an offer I could not refuse. Even though my wife did not have a job offer, we took the risk and fortunately, she also found a great position with the university.

2. Can you explain the idea behind AURIC's One Medicine approach?

One Medicine is the concept that all medicine is related. We should stop thinking about "veterinary medicine" or "human medicine" and instead should think about the two together. Then we can more easily transfer what we learn in one species to creating new treatments in another. I want to emphasize that this is a two-way street and that, for example, what we learn treating cancer in humans can be applied to treating cancer in dogs, just as much as what we learn in dogs can be applied to humans.

3. What sort of discoveries do you envision or hope will take place over the next five years?

There are many very exciting research projects going on in laboratories all over Auburn. Some examples include the effects of obesity on cancer, creating new types of nanomedicines that can target cancer cells and spare normal cells, and new types of gene and cell therapies that may lead to vaccines for cancer. In research, five years is a short time, so in that amount of time I envision that AURIC will continue to grow and that AURIC investigators will be recognized for the world-class science that they are doing. In 10 years, I hope that some of that science will be routinely used at both human and veterinary hospitals.

4. What are some of your hobbies outside of work?

I have a few. Because our daughter is an equestrienne, both my wife and I also started riding horses a few years ago. I have a wonderful horse named Rocky who had a prior career as a big-time jumper and he is teaching me how to ride and jump fences. I also enjoy model railroading and the history of railroads. I freely admit that I play with trains! I haven't had the time or space to build a layout where I can run my trains, but I hope to do that soon. Our family also likes to go skiing and sailing when we get the chance.

5. What is your favorite thing about Auburn?

Without a doubt, my favorite thing about Auburn is the people here. When we moved here more than 20 years ago we were amazed at how friendly everyone was. In many ways, it was a lot smaller town then, but as Auburn has grown it hasn't lost that friendliness. I think it is reflected every day in the way in which people work with each other here at the university as well as in daily life, when strangers start a conversation and neighbors wave as you drive through your neighborhood.

Dec. 16, 2013