Dr. Rolf Renne named Associate Director for Basic Sciences

Published: April 13th, 2017

Category: Around the Center

Rolf Renne, Ph.D.

The University of Florida Health Cancer Center is pleased to announce that Rolf Renne, Ph.D., has been appointed the center’s associate director for basic sciences.

In this role, Dr. Renne will be responsible for developing and coordinating all UFHCC-associated basic science research programs and fostering new interdisciplinary collaborations between different programs — and between basic and clinical cancer researchers — with the goal of translating hypothesis-driven basic cancer research into future prevention and treatment strategies. Dr. Renne will also oversee all activities and resources associated with providing the best possible research infrastructure to cancer center members. 

“Dr. Renne is one of the most accomplished cancer researchers at our center, with a long focus on virus-induced malignancy,” said Jonathan Licht, M.D., director of the UF Health Cancer Center. “His experience in bringing together multi-investigator programs, as exemplified by his recent program project grant on Kaposi sarcoma virus, will be essential as we build our basic and translational programs, which we will present in our NCI designation effort.”

Dr. Renne’s position is one of several new leadership roles being added to the UF Health Cancer Center roster. The revamped leadership team and Dr. Licht will work with clinical, population science and laboratory-based faculty and staff to develop and implement new and innovative strategies for the treatment and prevention of cancer. These leadership positions are critical in aligning the UFHCC with the center structure required for NCI designation.

“I am honored to accept this position in one of the most exciting times in our center’s history, with the arrival of Dr. Licht, who has initiated a period of rapid growth and development,” said Dr. Renne. “I will do my best to increase our research output with the recruitment of new investigators and by fostering new interdisciplinary initiatives across the university’s colleges and centers. I will work hard to provide, support and create outstanding new core facilities for our cancer researchers.

“I truly believe that our goal of reaching NCI designation and increasing the quality of cancer research and cancer care in Florida is best served by involving as many of our very talented faculty as possible, and I look forward to working with you on this goal.”

For nearly 13 years, Dr. Renne has served as a professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of molecular genetics and microbiology, studying the Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus — which has been his research focus since 1995. His laboratory uses genomics, genetics and ribonomics approaches to study how virally-encoded genes and microRNAs contribute to KSHV biology and tumorigenesis.

Dr. Renne received his master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the Albert-Ludwigs University of Freiburg, Germany. He performed most of his Ph.D. thesis work at UC Davis with Dr. Paul Luciw in the field of retrovirology. Next, he joined the laboratory of Dr. Don Ganem at UCSF where he contributed to early work on establishing tissue culture models for KSHV, which had recently been identified as the causative pathogen for Kaposi sarcoma in patients with AIDS.

In 1999, he joined the faculty at Case Western Reserve University, where he focused on molecular aspects such as the role of the KSHV latency-associated nuclear antigen (LANA) in DNA binding and latent DNA replication. He established the only available Kaposi sarcoma xenograft model. In 2004, he moved to UF where his laboratory was one of four worldwide to sequence and identify KSHV-encoded microRNAs. 

The unifying goal of Dr. Renne’s research has been to achieve a deeper understanding of how latent gamma-herpesvirus gene products, including microRNAs and long noncoding RNAs, contribute to viral tumorigenesis of AIDS malignancies. His current focus is on epigenetic regulation of viral latency, and the role of long and small non-coding RNAs in viral biology. 

Dr. Renne has been continuously funded by multiple NCI grants since 2004. In 2017, he was awarded a multi-investigator NCI Program Project together with Scott Tibbetts, Ph.D., an associate professor at UF, and Erik Flemington, Ph.D., a professor at Tulane University.

He serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Virology and Virology and has authored more than 80 peer-reviewed articles. In 2009, Dr. Renne co-chaired the 11th International Workshop on KSHV and related agents as well as the 40th International Herpesvirus Workshop in Boise, Idaho in 2015. He serves on multiple NIH special emphasis panels. 

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Renne as he steps into his new role as associate director for basic sciences of the University of Florida Health Cancer Center.