ECU researcher approved for NCInnovation funding for promising melanoma treatment

East Carolina University’s Dr. Rukiyah Van Dross-Anderson, associate professor in pharmacology and toxicology at the Brody School of Medicine, has been approved for grant funding from NCInnovation to continue her work in developing a groundbreaking cancer immunotherapy for melanoma patients.

Van Dross-Anderson is one of the first eight researchers from universities across the state to be approved by the NCInnovation Board of Directors to receive funding for research that has commercial promise.

“Dr. Van Dross-Anderson’s work is a potential game changer for cancer treatment and is a perfect example of how NCInnovation can work with researchers to translate breakthroughs in the lab into products that can make a difference in the lives of our families and neighbors,” said ECU Chancellor Philip Rogers. “We appreciate the support of state lawmakers and NCInnovation for applied research at ECU, and we’re excited to see how this work will progress.”

Van Dross-Anderson is developing a first-of-its kind cancer immunotherapy for melanoma patients to eliminate the cancer cell and prompt the immune system to seek out and destroy other cancer cells. The immunotherapy is for melanoma patients who do not respond to current treatments. She hopes her work will increase survivability and reduce melanoma recurrence.

“I am grateful to NCInnovation for creating an avenue through which innovation and commercialization can be supported. This award will provide resources for me and my team to develop our cancer therapeutic in the state of North Carolina. As a result, we are now one step closer to helping cancer patients live longer and healthier lives,” said Van Dross-Anderson.

NCInnovation is a statewide nonprofit formed to help translate university research into economic output. Last year, the organization received $500 million in state funding as an endowment to accelerate the commercialization of research at universities. NCInnovation is working to deploy the interest earned on the endowment to provide grant funding and wraparound support services to university researchers.

“East Carolina University’s researchers are working on incredible innovations,” said Michelle Bolas, NCInnovation executive vice president and chief innovation officer. “Partnering with Dr. Van Dross-Anderson on her breakthrough discovery in cancer immunotherapy aligns with our mission to support research that solves some of today’s most pressing challenges and ultimately improve lives.”

Dr. Sharon Paynter, acting chief research and engagement officer said, “Without this funding, the likelihood of continuing the development of this breakthrough cancer therapeutic is considerably reduced. Helping inventors like Dr. Van Dross-Anderson move their innovations forward is a critical strategy for retaining and recruiting businesses to our state.”

Van Dross-Anderson said the funding will help her team partner with biotech companies that perform studies required by the FDA.


NCInnovation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation focused intensely on supporting North Carolina public university research that has commercial promise. NCInnovation deploys funding, mentors, and support services so that North Carolina university proofs-of-concept can advance towards commercialization, creating jobs that remain in North Carolina. Learn more at

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