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Tom Curran, PhD, FRS

Senior Vice President, Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer

Headshot of Tom Curran, PhD, FRS
Tom Curran, PhD, FRS

Tom Curran, PhD, FRS, holds the Donald J. Hall Eminent Scholar in Pediatric Research and he serves as the Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer of the Children’s Mercy Research Institute, Children’s Mercy, Kansas City. He is also a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and a Professor of Cancer Biology in the University of Kansas School of Medicine. Dr. Curran is responsible for defining the vision and guiding the growth of the Children’s Mercy Research Institute into a leading center for pediatric translational research.

He received a bachelor of science degree from Edinburgh University in 1978 and a PhD from the University College London, for studies carried out at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratories, in 1982. He was supported by a Damon-Runyon fellowship during his postdoctoral training from 1982-84 at the Salk Institute, San Diego, Calif.

From 1984-1995, Dr. Curran worked at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology, ultimately rising to the position of Associate Director. He then founded the Department of Developmental Neurobiology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where he grew the Translational Brain Tumor Program over the period 1995-2006. He served as Deputy Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute from 2006-2015 and he established the multi-institution Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium.

Dr. Curran’s research spans the fields of cancer, signal transduction and neurobiology. He discovered and characterized the inducible Fos-Jun oncogenic transcription factor complex and demonstrated its function in diverse signal transduction processes, including those involved in learning and memory. His lab identified a novel reduction/oxidation mechanism that regulates transcription factor activity. He also identified Reln, the gene responsible for the classic ataxic mouse mutation, reeler, and elucidated its role in the control of neuronal migration in the developing brain. Over the course of the last two decades, he pioneered preclinical analysis of Hedgehog Pathway inhibitors for the treatment of pediatric medulloblastoma and transitioned this work into successful Phase I/II human clinical trials. His work is published in over 290 papers that have been cited more than 54,000 times.

Dr. Curran was President of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in 2000-2001 and he served on the National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Advisors from 2000-2005. He has been elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1994), the American Society of Microbiology (1994), the Royal Society, London (2005), the National Academy of Medicine (2009), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2012), the Academy of the American Association for Cancer Research (2013) and as a corresponding fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Dr. Curran has received several awards and honors including, the Passano Foundation Young Scientist Award in 1992, the Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research award from the AACR in 1993, the Golgi Award from the Camillo Golgi Foundation and the Italian Academy of Neurosciences in 1994, and the Fred Epstein Lifetime Achievement Award from the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation in 2015.

Children’s Mercy Kansas City benefits from the breadth and depth of scientific expertise that Dr. Curran brings to the Children’s Mercy Research Institute. His hands-on experience in conducting translational research, as well as his background in industry, provide a formidable foundation for the task of building a pediatric translational research enterprise.

The guiding principle of the Children’s Mercy Research Institute is that “we will be led by our patients.” The patients will teach the researchers where advances need to be made to improve their health and wellbeing. Dr. Curran and his team believe that children deserve access to the very latest discoveries and technologies, including the opportunity to participate in research. The presence of research enhances the environment of clinical care and points the way to future treatments so that one day no parent should ever be faced with the troubling question, “What do we do now?”