Paari Murugan and Cole Drifka
Paari Murugan, Medical School, Department of Anatomic Pathology, and Cole Drifka, CTSI's Biorepository and Laboratory Services, have recently stepped into new roles stemming from the enhanced partnership between the two departments.

CTSI’s Biorepository and Laboratory Services introduces new leadership structure, enhanced partnership with Anatomic Pathology

CTSI’s Biorepository and Laboratory Services (BLS) recently enhanced its partnership with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Anatomic Pathology with the goal to increase the availability of well-curated human research specimens and the ability to get the specimens processed in a professional and efficient manner for analysis.

With a new memorandum of understanding, a dyad leadership structure is now in place that welcomes Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology Assistant Professor, Paari Murugan, MD, as the new BLS Medical Director, and promotes Cole Drifka, PhD, to BLS Program Director.

Providing medical direction

As BLS Medical Director, Paari will provide medical direction for specimen procurement operations, assist in assessing project feasibility, and provide quality control review of research specimens.

Paari is a board certified anatomic pathologist whose area of expertise is in the surgical pathology of genitourinary and bone/soft tissue tumors. After graduating from an Anatomic Pathology residency training program at the University of Oklahoma, he successfully completed an Oncologic Surgical Pathology fellowship at the MD Anderson Cancer Center which was then complemented by Genitourinary Pathology fellowship training at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. As a diagnostic surgical pathology expert, Paari works closely with multidisciplinary teams, guiding treatment to patients with kidney, urinary bladder, prostate, adrenal, testis, bone and soft tissue neoplasms. In addition to training medical students, pathology residents and fellows, Paari also conducts translational research focused on the histomorphological features of neoplastic entities and their immunohistochemical and molecular profiles. With over 45 peer-reviewed publications, 23 scientific meeting presentations and 3 extramural grants to his credit, Paari continues to be an academically prolific Laboratory Medicine faculty member.

Providing operational direction

As BLS Program Director, Cole will continue to develop and direct an integrated biospecimen program to serve the needs of all investigators across the University of Minnesota. As a biospecimen research support “hub,” BLS offers end-to-end services spanning specimen procurement, processing, histology, imaging, and a biorepository storage facility. He will oversee day-to-day BLS operations, ensure regulatory compliance, serve as the primary liaison to investigators, and implement strategies to expand the BLS service portfolio.

Cole has managed CTSI’s BLS program since January 2017. He earned a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focused on better understanding the pancreatic cancer microenvironment through a combination of tissue-based tumor models, histology, advanced microscopy, and digital image analysis. As a researcher, he was an extensive user of biospecimen research service cores.

Working hand-in-hand

Paari and Cole will be working together to provide medical and operational leadership for the BLS program. They will also establish and convene a BLS Advisory Committee with strong representation from departments across the University to identify new opportunities for BLS, prioritize specimen procurements of strategic importance, and develop policy for specimen utilization.

“BLS and Anatomic Pathology are two hands of the same machine. We work together to ensure high-quality research specimens can be collected while prioritizing patient care and confidentiality. BLS brings an impressive research infrastructure conducive to interdisciplinary collaboration to the table. Pathology brings medical expertise and invested faculty willing to be intellectually engaged on new research projects. It is a win-win partnership,” said Mahmoud Khalifa, MD, PhD, Director of Anatomic Pathology.

“The centrality of BLS services enables specimen-based research to be performed efficiently. Our goal is to continuously refine and grow the BLS program to best meet the needs of University researchers. Pathology is a key stakeholder in this goal as evident by our deepened partnership,” said Tim Schacker, MD, CTSI’s Director of Clinical Research Services.

To learn more about BLS and how its services can help your research, contact Cole Drifka at [email protected]