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Douglas N. Robinson, M.Phil., Ph.D.

Headshot of Douglas N. Robinson
  • Professor of Cell Biology

Research Interests

Disease states; Model systems; Cell-shape control; Homeostasis; Tissue development; Cytokinesis (Cell division); Cellular mechanosensing; Molecular mechanisms ...read more

Background

Dr. Douglas N. Robinson is a professor of cell biology, pharmacology and molecular sciences, medicine (pulmonary division), oncology, and chemical and biomedical engineering in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. A cell biologist, geneticist, and biophysicist, Dr. Robinson investigates how cells form the shapes required for the specialized functions necessary for human health.

Doug completed his B.S. degree at Purdue University ('91), his doctoral degree with Lynn Cooley at Yale University School of Medicine ('97), and his postdoctoral training with Jim Spudich at Stanford University School of Medicine ('97-'01). 

Doug was a Damon Runyon Fellow, a Burroughs Wellcome Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences recipient, a Beckman Young Investigator, and an American Cancer Society Research Scholar. Doug is the 2015 recipient of the Johns Hopkins University Professors' Award for Excellence in Teaching in Biomedical Sciences and the 2016 recipient of the Biophysical Society’s Emily M. Gray Award for ‘Significant Contributions to Education in Biophysics’.  Doug also received the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology's 2017 Ruth Kirschstein Diversity in Science Award for "the encouragement of under-represented minorities to enter the scientific enterprise and/or to the effective mentorship of those within it." In 2018, Doug received the Provost’s Prize for Faculty Excellence in Diversity, and in 2020, he became a Fellow of the American Society for Cell Biology.

...read more

Titles

  • Professor of Cell Biology
  • Joint Appointment in Medicine
  • Professor of Oncology
  • Professor of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes

Education

Degrees

  • B.S.; Purdue University (Indiana) (1991)
  • M.Phil.; Yale University (Connecticut) (1993)
  • Ph.D.; Yale University (Connecticut) (1997)

Additional Training

  • Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, 2001, Biochemistry

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Uncovering the Fundamentals of Cell Shape Control in Normal and Disease Scenarios

My research goals are to understand how cells interface biochemistry and mechanics to perform dynamic cell shape change during processes such as cell division, cell motility, and cellular morphogenesis. I am also interested in how cells sense and respond to mechanical inputs, which help direct their behavior. This process of mechanosensing is fundamental to a broad array of healthy physiology, such as hearing, blood pressure regulation, bone remodeling, durotaxis, and stem cell decisions.  We have found that cell division (cytokinesis) naturally encompasses all these cell behaviors with the added value that cytokinesis is of fundamental medical importance as a source of novel anti-cancer drug targets. The social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum has been our principle model of choice because it undergoes cytokinesis and cell motility in a manner that is highly analogous to mammalian cells and is highly tractable for genetic through engineering approaches. In our research, we employ a broad range of conceptually distinct research strategies, ranging from genetics, biochemistry and advanced quantitative microscopy to engineering and computational biology. To accomplish this, I have recruited a diverse group of researchers in my lab whose expertise span these disciplines and have trained 78 people in my lab to date. My own training was in developmental genetics with Lynn Cooley at Yale and biochemistry with Jim Spudich at Stanford. We collaborate closely with computational biologist Pablo Iglesias (JHU Electrical and Computer Engineering). We also work with Ron Rock at University of Chicago to apply single molecule methods to study the force-dependent assembly and function of proteins involved in cellular mechanosensing. 

My lab has also branched out considerably to apply our conceptual approaches to a diversity of other cell shape change and cellular mechanosensing processes through collaboration with several investigators. With Janice Evans (formerly, JHU School of Public Health), we examined the mechanics of mammalian oocyte maturation, meiotic cell division, block to polyspermy, and oocyte aging.  With Mike Overholtzer (Sloan Kettering), we studied the mechanics of entosis, the process by which one cell engulfs another and which is common in many solid tumors.  With Elizabeth Chen (UT Southwestern), we examined the biochemical basis of the cell mechanics that guide and control of myoblast fusion during muscle development. We are also working with Ramana Sidhaye to study the molecular mechanical basis for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. We also seek to engineer cells to be able to perform specialized tasks. Towards this end, we are working with Pablo Iglesias, Peter Devreotes (JHU Cell Biology), Takanari Inoue (JHU Cell Biology), and Tamara O’Connor (JHU Biological Chemistry) to engineer cells with enhance pathogen hunting ability.

My lab has been working with Robert Anders (JHU Pathology) to study the mechanics of liver and pancreatic cancer progression. Now we have built an interdisciplinary team to use the mechanobiology of pancreatic cancer progression to guide the discovery of new therapeutic strategies. This team includes Robert Anders, Pablo Iglesias, Elizabeth Jaffee (JHU Oncology), and Caren Freel Meyers (JHU Pharmacology).

Finally, we utilize our foundational science to discover, characterize, and develop small molecules that target the mechanobiology of the cell in order to guide cell behavior. This includes high throughput screening using live-cell assays. Our first compound has advanced to the stage of having been tested in animal models of metastatic pancreatic and colorectal cancer.

Lab

You can see information about Dr. Robinson's lab here

Lab Website: Robinson Lab

Selected Publications

View all on PubMed

Kliment CR, Nguyen JMK, Kaltreider MJ, Lu YW, Claypool SM, Radder JE, Sciurba FC, Zhang Y, Gregory AD, Iglesias PA, Sidhaye VK, Robinson DN*. Adenine Nucleotide Translocase regulates airway epithelial metabolism, surface hydration, and ciliary function. J. Cell Sci. 2021;134(4): jcs257162

Surcel A, Schiffhauer ES, Thomas DG, Zhu Q, DiNapoli K, Herbig M, Otto O, West-Foyle H, Jacobi A, Kräter M, Plak K, Guck J, Jaffee EM, Iglesias PA, Anders RA, Robinson DN*. Targeting mechanoresponsive proteins in pancreatic cancer: 4-hydroxyacetophenone blocks dissemination and invasion by activating MYH14. Cancer Res. 2019; 79: 4665-4678

Crews DC, Wilson KL, Sohn J, Kabacoff CM, Poynton SL, Murphy LR, Bolz J, Wolfe A, White PT, Will C, Collins C, Gauda E, Robinson DN*. Helping scholars overcome socioeconomic barriers to medical and biomedical careers: Creating a pipeline initiative.  Teach. Learn. Med. 2020; 32(4): 422-433. DOI: 10.1080/10401334.2020.1729161

Surcel A, Schiffhauer ES, Thomas DG, Zhu Q, DiNapoli K, Herbig M, Otto O, West-Foyle H, Jacobi A, Kräter M, Plak K, Guck J, Jaffee EM, Iglesias PA, Anders RA, Robinson DN*. Targeting mechanoresponsive proteins in pancreatic cancer: 4-hydroxyacetophenone blocks dissemination and invasion by activating MYH14. Cancer Res. 2019; 79: 4665-4678

Luo T, Mohan K, Iglesias PA, Robinson DN*. Molecular mechanisms of cellular mechanosensing. Nat. Mater. 2013; 12: 1064-1071

Patents

Treating and Preventing Diseases by Modulating Cell Mechanics
Patent # US Patent: US10787410B2 | 

Contact for Research Inquiries

Physiology Building
725 N. Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD 21205 map
Phone: 410-502-2850
Fax: 410-955-4129

Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Activities & Honors

Honors

  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Research Fund , 1997
  • Leukemia Research Foundation, Postdoctoral Award, 2000
  • Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, 2000
  • Young Investigator Award, Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation , 2003
  • Research Scholar Award, American Cancer Society , 2007
  • Professor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in Biomedical Sciences, Johns Hopkins University
  • Emily M. Gray Award for ‘Significant Contributions to Education in Biophysics’, Biophysical Society
  • uth Kirschstein Diversity in Science Award, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Science Super Hero for ‘individuals who have used science to make a difference in their community’, Discovery Communication
  • Provost’s Prize for Faculty Excellence in Diversity, Johns Hopkins University
  • Fellow, American Society for Cell Biology

Memberships

  • American Society for Cell Biology
  • Biophysical Society

Professional Activities

  • BCMB Faculty Advisor for Annual Retreat, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2003 - 2005
  • BCMB Graduate Program Admissions Committee, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2002 - 2005
  • Orals Committees, Johns Hopkins Graduate Examination Board, 2003
  • Cell Biophysics Day Symposium, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2008
  • Editorial Board, Biophysical Journal, 2009 - 2015
  • Council, Johns Hopkins Medical School, 2005 - 2009
  • Chair, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine IBBS Imaging Director Search Committee, 2006 - 2006
  • Dept. of Cell Biology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2008
  • Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2008 - 2010
  • Dept. of Cell Biology, Hay Graduate Student Fellowship Committee, 2009 - 2013
  • Editorial board, Current Biology, 2010
  • Editorial board, Cytoskeleton, 2011
  • INBT Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Admissions Committee, Johns Hopkins, 2010
  • NBMed/HHMI Graduate Program Admissions Committee, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2007 - 2007
  • Founding Director, Summer Academic Research Experience, 2009
  • Summer Internship Program (SIP) Admissions Committee, Johns Hopkins, 2010 - 2015
  • Young Investigators Day Postdoc/Medical Student Committee, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2007
  • Member, Professorial Promotions Committee, 2014
  • Founding Director, Johns Hopkins Initiative for Careers in Science and Medicine, 2016
  • Member, Compensation Committee, 2015
  • Member, Institute for Excellence in Education, 2014

Videos & Media

Recent News Articles and Media Coverage

Doug Robinson on the Shape of Amoebas (Fundamentals)

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