Faculty & Staff


Gary Coombs, Ph. D.
Associate 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.
01 Aug. 2009 04 Feb. 2010 Methods of treatment using Wnt inhibitors.
Sept. 2012 pending Inhibitors of Porcupine (PORCN) for the treatment of Wnt-sensitive cancers.
Sept. 2013 pending Maleimide Derivatives as Modulators of WNT pathway.

Professional Experience:
2015 – present, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Waldorf College
2010 – 15, 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:
I strive to stimulate an interest in the scientific pursuit of knowledge in students with very diverse career goals. My focus is on functions of living organisms at the molecular level. I provide students with a foundation of knowledge in this field, and then through labs and independent research projects I try to kindle focused interests in each student and help them develop the necessary competencies to expand their envelope of knowledge independently. Students in my upper division labs have the opportunity to construct recombinant DNA, quantitatively assess enzyme function, purify molecules from complex mixtures such as beef liver lysate, perform in vitro fertilization, study and manipulate microbes, genetically manipulate fruit flies and roundworms (C. elegans), perform blood cell histology, and much more. Outside of lab, students are introduced to bioinformatics tools that allow them to see and study protein structures in 3D, electronically manipulate DNA sequences, and competently navigate and read current scientific literature. To provide students with opportunities to participate in cutting edge biomedical research, I have several independent and collaborative projects underway in regulation of cancer cell proliferative signaling, and tumor suppressor function and reactivation. Collaborators include established professors at the University of Iowa, Duke-NUS and A*Star in Singapore, and UC San Diego.