Gersbach Named Rooney Family Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Charles Gersbach has been named the Rooney Family Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering in Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering.

The professorship, established in 2014 by a gift from Timothy Rooney E’80, MBA’82 and Mary Rooney as part of the Vinik Faculty Challenge, honors an associate professor at Pratt whose work addresses societal grand challenges. The chair was initially held by Nenad Bursac, a leader in cardiac and skeletal tissue engineering, who has been promoted to a full professorship.

Gersbach’s research uses genome engineering techniques to treat genetic diseases, regenerate damaged tissues, and study fundamental biological processes. Most recently, his work has focused on the emerging technology called CRISPR-Cas9, which he has used to move toward a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, turn genes on and off with light, and control gene expression through epigenetic markers.

Gersbach arrived at Duke in 2009 as an assistant professor and received tenure in 2015. He has more than 50 peer-reviewed publications—many of which are in leading journals in fields such as Science, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Methods, Nature Chemical Biology and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He is the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a National Institutes of Health Director's New Innovator Award and the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy Outstanding New Investigator Award.

In the relatively short time since his arrival, Gersbach has graduated four PhD students. In addition, he has assumed a major service role as director of the Center for Biomolecular and Tissue Engineering and the principal investigator of the associated National Institutes of Health biotechnology training grant.

The Rooney Family Associate Professorship was made possible by a donation made by Timothy and Mary Rooney. Timothy Rooney graduated from Duke with a BSE in civil engineering in 1980 and an MBA two years later. He then began work for the Manhattan Construction Company where he remained until 2006, after rising to position of CEO. He is currently managing partner of Builder Capital Investments, based in Dallas, Texas, and a member of the Pratt Board of Visitors.

The endowed chair was created as part of the $10 million Vinik Faculty Challenge, a dollar-for-dollar matching fund earmarked to create 10 professorships in engineering dedicated to addressing problems that affect quality of life.