Nindo Punturi, our Senior Research Associate, is excited about the future of chordoma research. “We’re on a quest to find better treatments for this disease — and we’re leaving no stone unturned,” he says.
Nindo joined our team in January, and his initial assignment was a big one: help establish Chordoma Foundation Labs, which is not only the first lab that’s 100% dedicated to researching this disease, but one of the first of its kind for any disease.
Alongside our Head of Target Discovery and Translational Research, Dan Freed, PhD, Nindo hit the ground running. Within the first two months, the pair had set up our lab, imported almost two dozen chordoma cell lines, established a number of experimental capabilities, and began work on the first several projects. Their speed in establishing our lab was especially impressive in light of certain challenges, particularly the infamous recent supply chain issues set off by the pandemic. “It wasn’t easy to circumvent stock limitations,” Nindo says, “but with creativity and determination, we were able to find the right reagents and consumables and get to work on experiments without much of a delay.”
Nindo Punturi and Dan Freed
Now that our lab has been set up, Nindo’s day-to-day efforts are focused on testing various drugs and combinations of drugs in chordoma cell lines, looking for better ways to slow chordoma tumor growth or even cause tumors to disappear. Work done through Chordoma Foundation Labs is also expected to lead to better knowledge about which treatments will work best for specific subsets of chordoma patients. “Our goal is to find therapeutics that work and then match the right therapeutic option with the right patient. That way, a patient can be given the best drug for them at the outset, instead of undergoing treatments that may not be effective,” says Nindo. “Ultimately, we want to get the most promising therapeutic strategies into the clinic to benefit patients as soon as possible — a path that can move much more quickly now thanks to the capabilities of Chordoma Foundation Labs,” he adds.
When we began recruiting for this role, Dan recalls coming across Nindo’s resume in the stack of applications. “He stood out right away. Not only did he have prior experience launching a new lab — including the ability and skills to spearhead and optimize the new systems, experimental protocols, and technologies critical to any new lab operation — he also studied as a translational scientist in one of the world’s top cancer laboratories,” Dan says. “And he’s been hitting the ball out of the park. As a result, our scientific partners and patients can feel confident that chordoma research is being advanced as diligently as possible through our lab,” he adds. “We’re so lucky that Nindo landed with us.”
Before joining our team, Nindo studied breast cancer. “Shifting my focus to a rare disease was appealing to me as a scientist, because understudied fields have a greater number of unanswered questions than commonly studied ones,” he says. “And all diseases, no matter how rare, deserve the attention of scientists and providers. Other cancer types have tailored and targeted therapeutic strategies, and chordoma should, too,” he adds. Our approach to research appealed to Nindo, as well: “I was intrigued by the Chordoma Foundation’s rapid progress to date, which made me eager to be part of this organization,” he says.
Nindo is one of the few people at the Foundation whose work can’t be done remotely, but he’s enjoyed connecting with his Foundation colleagues in their home offices via Zoom. “From the very beginning, everyone was friendly and welcoming. This is a place where our collective drive toward progress on behalf of patients is front and center, but we also care about others on the team on a very personal level,” he says. “We’re communicative and collaborative, and that makes us incredibly effective in propelling our mission forward. Working alongside all these high achievers has been one of my favorite parts of the job,” he adds.
On a recent trip to New York for our Chordoma Community Conference, Nindo had the chance to meet chordoma patients face to face for the first time. “It was incredible to connect with the individuals and families who are the driving force behind our work, and meeting them puts that work into perspective,” he says. “Each day in the lab, I push myself to get new treatments to them faster.”
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