Faculty & Staff


Gary Coombs, Ph. D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Phone: 641-585-8396
Fax: (641) 585-8194
Email: gary.coombs@waldorf.edu

1997-98, Postdoctoral fellowship
The Scripps Research Institute, San Diego, CA
1997, Ph.D Molecular Biophysics
University of Texas SW Med. Cntr., Dallas, TX
1991, B.S. Microbiology
Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Patents Granted/Pending:

08 Sept. 2000 28 Sept. 2004 Inhibitors of serine protease activity of matriptase or MTSP1.
01 Aug. 2009 pending Methods of treatment using Wnt inhibitors.

Professional Experience:
2010 – present, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Waldorf College
2007-10, Sr. Research Fellow, Duke-NUS Cancer & Stem Cell Research Program, Singapore
2004-07, Research Assistant Professor, The Huntsman Cancer Institute, Salt Lake City, UT
1998-04, Sr. Research Scientist, Corvas International, San Diego, CA

Research interest statement:
My research interests center on elucidating structure/function relationships of biological macromolecules with the goal of applying insights gained to improved understanding of human disease (primarily breast, prostate, and colon cancer). Past research has focused on targeting the fibrinolytic proteases u-PA and t-PA in metastatic cancers, improving detection of prostate specific antigen (PSA) activity for diagnostic and therapeutic benefit in metastatic prostate cancer, elucidating mechanisms of Wnt secretion, evaluating manipulation of Wnt signaling as a therapeutic strategy for a broad spectrum of solid tumors, and characterizing a colon cancer cell line specific mechanism by which iron chelators can regulate Wnt signaling.

Courses Taught:
BIO 120 Freshman majors biology
BIO 330 Biochemistry
BIO 332 Genetics
BIO 340 Microbiology
BIO 440 Cell & Molecular Biology
BIO 442 Developmental Biology

Selected Publications (last 5 years):
Coombs, G. S., Schmitt, A. A., Canning, C. A., Alok, A., Low, I. C. C., Banerjee, N., Kaur, S., Utomo, V., Jones, C. M., Pervaiz, S., Toone, E. J., and Virshup, D. M. “Modulation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling and proliferation by a ferrous iron chelator with therapeutic efficacy in genetically engineered mouse models of cancer.” Oncogene. 2011 Jun 13. doi: 10.1038/onc.2011.228. [Epub ahead of print]

Covey, T. M., Edes, K., Coombs, G. S., Virshup, D. M., and Fitzpatrick, F. A. “Alkylation of the Tumor Suppressor PTEN Activates Akt and b-Catenin Signaling: A Mechanism Linking Inflammation and Oxidative Stress with Cancer.” PLOS One 5(10), e13545 (2010).

Coombs, G. S., Jia, Y., Canning, C. A., Veltri, C. A., Covey, T. M., Cheong, J. K., Utomo, V., Banerjee, N., Zhang, Z. H., Jadulco, R. C., Concepcion, G. P., Bugni, T. S., Harper, M. K., Mihalek, I., Jones, C. M., Ireland, C. M., and Virshup, D. M. “WLS-dependent secretion of WNT3A requires Ser209 acylation and vacuolar acidification.” Journal of Cell Science. 123(19), 3357-3367 (2010).

McCulloch, M. W. B., Bugni, T. S., Concepcion, G. P., Coombs, G. S., Harper, M. K., Kaur, S., Mangalindan, G. C., Mutizwa, M. M., Veltri, C. A., Virshup, D. M., and Ireland, C. M. “Carteriosulfonic Acids A-C, GSK-3b Inhibitors from a Carteriospongia sp.” Journal of Natural Products 72(9), 1651-1656 (2009).

McCulloch, M. W. B., Coombs, G. S., Banerjee, N., Bugni, T. S., Cannon, K. M., Harper, M. K., Veltri, C. A., Virshup, D. M., and Ireland, C. M. “Psammaplin A as a general activator of cell based signaling assays via HDAC inhibition and studies on some bromotyrosine derivatives.” Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry 17(6), 2189-2198 (2009).

Coombs G.S., Covey T.M., and Virshup D.M. “Wnt signaling in development, disease, and translational medicine.” Current Drug Targets 9, 513-531 (2008).

Luo W., Peterson A., Garcia B.A., Coombs G., Kofahl B., Heinrich R., Shabanowitz J., Hunt D.F., Yost H.J., Virshup D.M. “Protein phosphatase 1 regulates assembly and function of the beta-catenin degradation complex.” EMBO Journal 26(6), 1511-1521 (2007).

Swiatek W., Kang H., Garcia B.A., Shabanowitz J., Coombs G.S., Hunt D.F., and Virshup D.M. “Negative regulation of LRP6 function by casein kinase I epsilon phosphorylation.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 281(18), 12233-12241 (2006).

Additional Information:
Teaching Philosophy:
My goal here is to provide talented undergraduates with relevant hands-on research experience, which will aid them in pursuing graduate education and research careers. To this end, I recently established collaboration with Dawn Quelle at the University of Iowa (Pharmacology department). I produced adenoviruses expressing tagged versions of the tumor suppressor proteins ARF, Parf, & NIAM and conducted pilot TAP tag purification experiments to allow identification of novel interactors of these proteins by mass spectrometry and contribute to our understanding of their tumor suppressor functions. In order to build upon this work, maintain a productive collaboration, and provide opportunities for Waldorf undergraduates to participate in meaningful research, I am proposing to direct vector construction by Waldorf students to facilitate evaluation of known and yet to be discovered interactors with ARF, Parf, and NIAM, and to permit functional studies of conserved amino acids and structural motifs in Parf and NIAM. To integrate Waldorf students into the downstream portions of experiments they contribute to, and to provide early career scientists from the University of Iowa with valuable speaking opportunities, I plan to invite graduate students and postdocs from the Quelle and collaborating labs to formally present their results periodically at Waldorf College.