Susan Sumner, Ph.D. joined the UNC Nutrition Research Institute on December 1, 2016, as a Professor of Nutrition. Dr. Sumner is working to make personalized medicine a reality through metabolomics, the science of measuring thousands of chemicals in a small sample of a person’s blood. Metabolomic analyses provide a more comprehensive view of a patient’s metabolism than the limited measurements of glucose and cholesterol that doctors employ today. Using metabolomics, Dr. Sumner assesses differences in the metabolic profile of individuals that correlate with states of wellness or disease. She is identifying responses to treatment in areas such as obesity, drug-induced liver injury, infectious disease, and reproductive and developmental biology.
For the past 12 years, Dr. Sumner has worked at the Research Triangle Institute as Director of the NIH Eastern Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Core, and as a Senior Research Scientist in the Center for Estimating Human Health Risks from Exposure to Nanoparticles. Her research activities span several domain areas in Personalized Medicine, Metabolomics and Biomarkers Research, Obesity, and NanoHealth. She has led projects designed to identify biomarkers for the early detection of disease, to monitor disease progression or therapeutic intervention, and to gain insights into mechanisms of response. Dr. Sumner has served as the PI of a grant funded through the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to use metabolomics to reveal noninvasive markers of drug-induced liver injury. She also leads several research efforts that involve using metabolomics to reveal mechanistic insights related to the impact of environmental exposure in utero or early in life on reproductive and developmental outcomes.
“My expertise in metabolism and metabolomics, and broad applications in studies of diet, smoking, cancer, diabetes, obesity, cognitive development, liver disease, natural products, maternal and child health, and the environmental influence of disease complements the nutrigenomics research at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute. Metabolomics provides a means to determine the link between genes and nutrition requirements, and to understand how nutrition impacts gene function.
In addition to contributing metabolomics expertise to NRI projects being led by other investigators, I am interested in bringing new projects to the institute for expanded collaborations, specifically in the areas of pregnancy complications, early-life chemical exposure and health outcomes, maternal and child health, diabetes and kidney disease, and human variation in metabolism.”
With Dr. Sumner’s arrival in Kannapolis, the NRI will be home to the Eastern Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Research Core. This is one of six centers in the United States that work together to establish national standards for metabolomics, and increase national metabolomic capacity in clinical and translational research.
Dr. Sumner received her B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from North Carolina State University.