Welcome to the Cunniff Lab

Our research focuses on how mitochondrial dynamics and metabolic function dictate cell processes including cell migration and tumor cell metastasis. We utilize advanced microscopy approaches to visualize mitochondrial dynamics coupled with cellular biosensors and biochemical approaches to characterize metabolic features of distinct mitochondrial populations.

Additionally, we are developing novel therapies for the treatment of aggressive cancers such as malignant mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. We utilize cell and animal models to characterize metabolic features of tumor cells that provide susceptibility to compounds targeting mitochondrial function.

News & Announcements

Congratulations to Dr. Brian Cunniff, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, the team in the Cunniff Lab, and industry partner , RS Oncology, on having their novel therapy enter Phase 2 Clinical trials. Read the story here in Vermont Business Magazine Milestone for UVM-developed cancer drug or see his interview on WCAX Channel 3 News UVM Researcher Interview. (2/2024)

Congratulations to Brian Cunniff, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, on being awarded a $1.6 million R01 grant by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to study the role of mitochondrial trafficking in regulating cell migration, a key feature of metastatic tumors. (09/2023) 

The Butler Family Foundation Fund for Caner Research Supports The Cunniff Lab in effort to discover and advance treatments for malignant mesothelioma. The Cunniff Lab received funding from this newly established fund at the University of Vermont Cancer Center to support research focused on malignant mesothelioma. The Butler Fund was established by the Butler family in memory of two loved ones lost to mesothelioma. (03/2023)

Congratulations to Nathaniel Shannon, on receiving pathology research support funding of $1800 towards the cost of travel to the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine (SfRBM). (03/2023)

Nathaniel Shannon, a graduate student in the CMB program, in the lab of Dr. Brian Cunniff, Ph.D., has received a Travel Award from SfRBM, based on his abstract, to attend the SfRBM Annual Meeting in Orlando later this year. In addition, Nate's abstract was selected to be presented as a talk at the conference. (10/2022)

Brian Cunniff, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and UVM Cancer Center member, was awarded a National Cancer Institute R03 grant, entitled “A pilot study to investigate in vivo Miro1 deletion in breast cancer tumorigenesis” (NIH award R03CA270840 ). This two-year, $156,000 grant will support Dr. Cunniff's investigation of the role of mitochondrial structure and function in the development and progression of breast cancer using a novel mouse model developed at Larner. Dr. Cunniff is a faculty member in the UVM Redox Biology and Pathology Program. (06/2022)

thumbnail_Nate Website photoCongratulations to Nathaniel Shannon, a CMB graduate student, received one of eight annual Trainee Awards from the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine (SfRBM) for his abstract, titled “Miro1-mediated mitochondrial positioning supports subcellular redox status.” The awards—made available to students and postdoctoral fellows who wish to attend SfRBM to present their research—are conferred based on quality and the scientific merit of a submitted abstract. The 2021 recipients were awarded $500 each and were recognized during the 2021 SfRBM Virtual Conference held November 15to-18. In addition, each awardee received a voucher for free registration to either the 2022 or 2023 conference. (12/2021)

Heading to clinical trials..."UVM researchers celebrate ‘first-of-its-kind’ mesothelioma treatment headed to clinical trials" – My Champlain Valley News.  University of Vermont researchers have made a breakthrough in their study of possible treatments for malignant mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer linked to asbestos exposure. (10/2021)

Terri MessierTerri Messier, Research Analyst and Lab Manager of the Cunniff lab has been highlighted in the "Meet the Staff" section in the October 20, 2021 | Volume III, Issue 20 of the Larner College of Medicine Dean's Newsletter. (10/2021)



Terri Messier, Research Analyst and Lab Manager of the Cunniff lab was recently awarded a Dean's Excellence in Research Award from the Larner College of Medicine. Terri has served the UVM community for over 25 years both as a scientist and steward of professionalism. Terri is a rigorous, creative and skilled scientist. She has authored 18 manuscripts, contributed to numerous patent applications and mentored an abundance of students. Terri serves on the UVM Laboratory Safety Partnership, the Youth Workforce Development Grad Challenge and is a member of the Vermont Biosciences Alliance. Terri is actively involved in the larger Chittenden county community, directing the Vermont Cancer Center Community Outreach Program that brings high school students into LCOM research labs and provides them with early exposure to science and research. Terri is a driving factor in the continuing success of our research and a role model for a dedicated and professional research scientist. Congratulations Terri!! (11/2020)

Meara Student Research PosterCongratulations! to Meara for her presentation during the Virtual Student Research Conference! Meara has been conducting her Honors College Undergraduate Research in the lab since the spring of 2018. She has received two competitive undergraduate research awards to support her research. We look forward to her completing her Thesis work in 2021!  See Meara's poster here.



braincunniff_280x400The Cunniff Lab recently received funding from the Butler Family Foundation (managed by the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region) to investigate malignant mesothelioma tumor profiles that may predict sensitivity to therapies currently being developed in the Cunniff Lab, with support from RS Oncology. Malignant mesothelioma is a devastating disease that has no cure and is one of the most difficult tumors to treat. RS Oncology, in collaboration with the Cunniff Lab, is developing a therapeutic approach utilizing a novel mechanism of action that has shown promising pre-clinical activity.

This generous gift from the Butler Family will help to identify patients who are most likely to respond to current and new therapies under development. We are very thankful to the Butler Family for their generous support!


CunniffPost1"Innovative Partnership"

“Brian attended the European Society for Medical Oncology Congress in Barcelona, Spain with members of RS Oncology (George Naumov, COO and Jarrett Duncan, CEO) to announce a partnership with Azierta Scientific Consulting for co-development of RS Oncology’s novel therapeutic (PER-016) targeting mitochondrial oxidative stress signaling pathways in ovarian cancer. Pre-clinical data supporting the development of this therapeutic approach originated with work from Dr. Heintz and Cunniff and is ongoing in the Cunniff Lab.”

“This innovative partnership will allow us to expand into additional indications currently outside of our corporate strategy. This will ultimately speed up the process of reaching as many patients as possible sooner than anticipated with our exciting and potentially life-changing therapy,” stated Jarrett Duncan, CEO of RS Oncology. (Oct. 2019)

Dynamic regulation of subcellular mitochondrial position for localized metabolite levels.

Alshaabi H, Heininger M, Cunniff B. J Biochem. 2019 Jul 29.

  • Cunniff Lab Highlighted in mSphere
    (JULY 2019) The Cunniff Lab research was recently the focus of a commentary in mSphere, a journal published by The American Society for Microbiology. This commentary highlighted the impact of our past and present research in field of sub cellular mitochondrial dynamics. Thank you Lena Pernas for highlighting our work!
Mitochondria in Neon Green

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