Marcelo Bento Soares, PhD

Born in the Swiss and German colonized mountain city of Nova Friburgo in southeastern Brazil, Dr. Soares came to the U.S. for his doctoral (Ph.D.) studies in genetics at Columbia University with a scholarship from the Latin American Scholarship Program of American Universities and the Brazilian National Research Council. Upon receiving his PhD with distinction in 1986, and completion of a postdoctoral training in 1987, Dr. Soares returned to Brazil to teach, to mentor graduate students, and to develop a research program at the University of Sao Paulo, with support that he obtained from the World Health Organization.

In 1989, he was recruited back to Columbia University as faculty, to develop a research program on the Human Genome Project, which was officially launched in 1990. As an Assistant Professor of Neurogenetics in the Division of Genetics of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University, Dr. Soares established a research laboratory in genetics and genomics, and developed technology for construction of normalized and serially subtracted cDNA libraries – patented by Columbia University – that proved invaluable to expedite gene discovery by large-scale sequencing of Expressed Sequence Tag (EST) libraries. With colleagues from France and the USA, Dr. Soares co-founded the I.M.A.G.E. Consortium (Integrated Molecular Analysis of Genome Expression) [], to produce comprehensive collections of arrayed cDNA clones to be shared with researchers worldwide and thereby facilitate data integration. In a collaborative effort involving the Soares’ laboratory at Columbia University, Dr. Greg Lennon’s laboratory at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Dr. Robert Waterston’s Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University in St. Louis, unprecedented numbers of ESTs were contributed to a publicly available EST database held at NIH’s National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). This enabled rapid discovery of several human disease-causing genes by the scientific community, while facilitating development and implementation of technology for large-scale analysis of gene expression, namely cDNA expression arrays and gene chip technologies, ultimately leading to the rise of the field of functional genomics. In 1997, Dr. Soares was promoted to Associate Professor of Neuroscience with tenure, and he was appointed a Section Head within Columbia’s Genome Center, an NIH funded genome program.

Dr. Soares then joined the faculty of the University of Iowa in 1997 in order to expand his large-scale sequencing and bioinformatics capabilities, ultimately enabling him to lead or participate in several trans-NIH initiatives, such as the Cancer Genome Anatomy Project, the Rat Gene Discovery and Mapping Project, the Mouse Brain Molecular Anatomy Project, and the Mammalian Gene Collection Program.

Since the year 2000, Dr. Soares has directed all his research efforts to cancer. In 2004, he co-led a new research program in the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, namely the Cancer Genetics and Computational Biology Program. During his eight years at Iowa, Dr. Soares served as Principal Investigator on a number of large trans-NIH grants and contracts, being among the most funded investigators in the medical school for several consecutive years.

In 2005, Dr. Soares was recruited to Northwestern University and the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute, formerly named Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Research Center, and prior to that, Children’s Memorial Research Center, to serve as inaugural director of the Cancer Biology and Epigenomics Program, a position that he held for 10 years (2005-2015). As the Rachelle and Mark Gordon Endowed Professor of Cancer Biology and Epigenomics and Professor of Pediatrics, Dr. Soares led a program comprised of four PIs with approximately $2 million annually in external funding of which 25 percent was from NIH. In 2006, Dr. Soares was appointed Scientific Director of the Falk Brain Tumor Center of the Ann and Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Dr. Soares worked closely with Dr. Tadanori Tomita (Clinical Director of the Falk Brain Tumor Center and Head of the Division of Neurosurgery) and Dr. Stewart Goldman (Division Chief, Hematology/Oncology/Stem Cell Transplantation) to build a translational research program focused in the study of pediatric ependymomas and brain stem gliomas. Under Soares’ leadership, the Falk Brain Tumor Center’s research program not only maintained significant scholarly productivity, but also enabled research training of a number of postdoctoral scientists and medical fellows.

In 2015, Dr. Soares was recruited to the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria as Chairman of the Department of Cancer Biology and Pharmacology and Senior Associate Dean for Research, in order to provide academic leadership, enhance research infrastructure, and foster partnership developments in the medical school, across campuses, and with public and private sectors. Dr. Soares will build upon the existing cancer research program to establish new areas of research in Cancer Microbiomics, Cancer Immunology, Cancer Metabolism and Cancer Computational Genomics and Bioinformatics. These research programs will serve as catalyst to facilitate development of new interdisciplinary collaborative research programs in the medical school.

In addition, Dr. Soares is committed to the development of collaborative multidisciplinary programs in disease prevention – and cancer prevention in particular – with emphasis on research and education in nutrition, physical activity and mindfulness training. Dr. Soares is also passionately committed to medical education, particularly concerning compassionate care, end of life support and planning, and development of communication skills.