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Brandon Turunen is a medicinal chemist and team leader for a global pharmaceutical company.
Brandon Turunen is an accomplished scientist who is driven by finding new ways to treat diseases and cure illnesses. He currently is employed as a program leader for a major global health care company and is working on immunotherapy research. Biomedical research is fascinating to Turunen, and he is motivated by finding new medicines and therapies for patients in need.
The team he leads is engaged in redirecting the patient’s own immune system to diseased tissues and pathogens. Leveraging new advancements in organic chemistry and medicine, Turunen’s ambition is to create inexpensive, single dose therapies for diseases such as cancer and malaria. These agents have the unique ability to find disease-ridden or disease-causing cells and alert the immune system so it can clear your body of infection.
Brandon Turunen hopes that these advancements will help in preventing and curing cancer and other devastating illnesses. He works actively in the oncology and infectious disease fields to develop technology that he hopes will assist in the curing of human disease.
When he is not working as a chemist, Turunen believes in supporting his community. Living in the Triangle area of North Carolina, he volunteers and has supported the Durham, NC Rescue Mission, The Food Bank of North Carolina, The Carolina Tiger Rescue and efforts to clean up Jordan Lake.
An avid runner, Turunen participates in many running events ranging from 5k races to marathons. He and his wife have three children aged 10, 13, and 16.
Brandon Turunen has loved science for as long as he can remember. He has also enjoyed serving others and using his passions to benefit the community or people in need. As a scientist, he started his career working in a crime lab. It was there that he saw first-hand how science can impact people’s lives in an important and influential way. While he enjoyed that position, he yearned for more.
Brandon Turunen earned his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Michigan State University (MSU) in 1996. The university was founded in 1855 as an agricultural college. It has always emphasized scientific study and in 1925 became an applied science college. Today, the university is located in East Lansing, Michigan, and sits on a sprawling 5,200-acre campus. There are more than 2,000 additional acres available, which are currently in various stages of development. MSU boasts many nationally ranked academic and research programs as well as having both football and basketball programs consistently ranked in the top 25.
Also in 1996, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in forensic science from Michigan State University. This allowed him to earn his first job as a criminalist with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Criminalistics Laboratory. He served in this position for four years. Criminalists use their scientific background to analyze evidence and report their findings. Sometimes, these professionals are called in to testify in court. Criminalists examine evidence in laboratory settings to help lawyers understand the evidence associated with a case.
Brandon Turunen then decided he wanted more out of his career. He wanted to help people in a more direct and tangible way. To fulfill this goal, he enrolled at the University of Kansas (KU) and graduated in 2005 with a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry. The medicinal chemistry program is a small graduate-level program that currently comprises of approximately 40 enrolled students. Students regularly share interests and areas of expertise, creating a collaborative educational environment. In this program students participate in innovative, state-of-the-art research projects and get hands-on experience in the fields they wish to enter. The KU MedChem department is regarded as one of the best training programs in the nation for medicinal chemists and consistently ranks near the top for NIH funding of its programs.
From 2005 to 2007, Brandon Turunen served as a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemistry at Stanford University. During that time he studied the synthesis of complex organic chemical compounds and their uses in the body for medicinal purposes. At the end of his fellowship, he took a position with a global pioneer in the health care industry. He continues to work for this organization today.
Work and Research
Turunen’s first job after his doctoral degree was as an investigator. In one role, Brandon led the chemistry team for the Wnt signaling program. This program helped understand the network of biological systems including organs, stem cells, and embryonic development that affect the body’s development and how it fights disease. Understanding this complex aspect of human health had several implications for pharmacological research and development.
In 2011, Brandon Turunen assumed a position as a manager with the same health care company. This role had him leading the chemical proteomics program. Chemical proteomics looks at small molecules and their interaction with proteins in the body. The implications of this research helps drug manufacturers design pharmaceutical compounds that assist in fighting and preventing disease.
In January of 2013, Turunen was asked to serve as a project manager for the CEO’s future strategy group. His task was to develop a five-year corporate strategy to double business in India. As India is currently one of the largest consumers of health care goods and is also producing very qualified and skilled scientific minds, this is a market that must be attended to. In the early fall, Brandon Turunen moved to his current role evaluating small molecule immunotherapeutics. This field is emerging as a novel strategy in the development of treatments used in battling HIV, cancer and other devastating illnesses.
Research continues to play an important role in Brandon Turunen’s career as an organic chemist with many articles published in various medical and scientific journals. Most recently he has published in Nature Chemical Biology working in collaborated with several other scientists in his field.
Turunen is a highly skilled and recognized leader in organic chemistry. Throughout his career, he has earned several awards and accolades. In 2001, as a predoctoral student he won his first award, a fellowship with the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program. In 2005, he won the Irsay-Dahle Award for recognition as an outstanding graduate student at the University of Kansas.
As a student, he won two postdoctoral fellowships including one from the National Institutes of Health. His dissertation won him the Marnie and Bill Argersinger Prize for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation.
The awards have continued throughout his career. Turunen has won multiple R&D awards for medicines innovation. Moreover, his employer has recognized his dedication and hard work continuously and compensated him with performance-based bonuses.
As a professional chemist, Turunen is affiliated with two important organizations. In 1999, he joined the American Chemical Society in both the organic chemistry division and the medicinal chemistry division. In 2010, he joined the Human Proteome Organization.
The American Chemical Society was founded in 1876 by a group of chemists at the College of Pharmacy of the city of New York. Today, the organization has more than 163,000 members and is the largest scientific society in the world. The organization’s mission is to improve people’s lives through the power of chemistry. To support their mission, the organization publishes journals, convenes research conventions and provides millions in grant funding for research.
The Human Proteome Organization is an internationally-known scientific group that promotes proteomics through collaboration and cooperation. The organization is trying to enable doctors and other health care professionals to better understand human disease and treat these illnesses. It was founded in 2001 and has grown through the support of international organizations, research groups and pharmaceutical companies. Brandon Turunen is proud to be affiliated with global research in chemistry and proteomics.
Brandon Turunen is inspired by all that could be accomplished in the future of disease treatment and the role chemistry is playing. He believes in the power of encouraging children to pursue scientific careers and the important role science will play in the global health care field. Researching the way proteins in the body react to specific chemical compounds is likely to unlock new treatment methods for diseases and improve human life.
Similarly, Turunen’s involvement in small molecule immunotherapeutics research is vitally important to society and he is excited about where the field is headed. He believes that by using science, organic and medicinal chemistry, health care researchers are helping the body improve its health defenses. The future of medicine is created in the lab, and Turunen is excited to play a part.
Outside of his career, Brandon Turunen is a father and husband who enjoys spending time with his family. His children are currently 10, 13 and 16, and are very active and involved in extracurricular hobbies and events. Turunen is also a philanthropist who volunteers and has supported the Durham, NC Rescue Mission, The Food Bank of North Carolina, The Carolina Tiger Rescue as well as efforts to clean up Jordan Lake.
During his free time, Turunen enjoys running daily for fitness and stress relief. He plans to continue running in road races of varying lengths and also plays in a recreational adult ice hockey league.
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