New Executive Director is Ready to Take Research to the Next Level

Pravin Mishra, Ph.D., M.B.A., brings to Des Moines University a rare combination of experiences in bench, translational and clinical science, academia, government and new strategic business development. He joined the university in October as executive director of research. Here are five things to know about him.

  • He wants to elevate the university’s research enterprise, including securing partnerships and funding for translational and patient-focused research.

    “I’ve worked in numerous settings and big institutions. Coming to DMU gives me a more intimate environment where I can utilize my experiences in a way that will take DMU to the next level,” he says. “I want to develop and sustain an infrastructure that will support interdisciplinary research, interprofessional education and clinical care since we have a successful clinical arm and public health program. My focus also is on creating more opportunities for students and faculty.” 

  • Mishra most recently was the chief operating officer at the Oklahoma State University Research Foundation — Prairie One, where he established a nationally competitive public health laboratory and helped advance the state’s pandemic-specific priorities, including developing artificial intelligence-driven pathogen monitoring. He also established and expanded partnerships with internal, local and national partners to support the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases priorities.

  • He credits research he performed earlier in his career, as a researcher at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, for propelling him toward translational research: He discovered that human mesenchymal stem cells, which possess well-accepted therapeutic potential in regenerative medicine, also have an unexpected “dark side” as cancer-supporting cells.


    “Stem cells are usually considered friendly cells for the body. I showed that if you put those friendly cells in a cancerous environment, they can support cancer to grow,” he says. The prestigious journal Cancer Research published his findings in 2008, featuring them on the cover.

  • In every position he’s had, he’s kept the “human element” at the center of his work. “I’ve always wanted to do research in a way that can translate into patient care in a short span of time or into a product that can help patients effectively,” he says. “That is what gets me up in the morning — how my innovation and leadership can support research or collaborations that translate to clinical treatments, candidate drug discovery or drug development to impact patient lives.”

  • He doesn’t brag, but he could. Mishra holds six patents and has contributed to others, has been published in international peer-reviewed publications, and has given more than 60 invited lectureships and presentations. His numerous awards in research and teaching include the National Cancer Institute Director’s Innovation Award, which was presented to him by NCI director and Nobel Prize-winning scientist Harold Varmus, M.D.

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