Robyn T. Burns

Associate Project Leader

Why I joined Emmes

I initially became involved in medical research as I wanted to make a difference in patients’ lives. However, my basic research wasn’t being translated as quickly as I would have hoped into clinical practice. By joining Emmes, I was able to transition into clinical trial management where I feel that I can have the most patient impact.

How do you describe Emmes to other people

I describe Emmes as a small, international CRO that was founded by biostatisticians. Our focus is on quality work and sound science; however, we are flexible to ensure that the needs of the client are met.

A bit about me

Although I grew up in upstate New York, I currently call Pittsburgh home and cheer for all the “black and yellow” sports teams. In my spare time, I enjoy walking, reading, and shuttling my two teenagers to their various activities.

Something I’m most proud of

I’m incredibly proud of the achievements of one of our clients for which I serve as the Program Manager, the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC). This 18-site Consortium, which focuses on breast cancer clinical and translational research, was being launched just as I began my Emmes career. The past 15 years has seen incredible growth for the Consortium- growing from a consortium of only 13 to 18 sites, recently approving its 59th study, and publishing over 40 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals.

How I chose my career

My work in the melanoma field serves to highlight how my career has matured since I joined Emmes in 2005. Upon joining Emmes, I managed the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI’s) Melanoma Intergroup, a national network of NCI-funded physician investigators. This work, along with my work with the TBCRC, led me to be recruited to serve as the Program Manager of the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) Breakthrough Consortium. This network of 21 centers across the United States serves as a forum for research collaborations. As time wore on, I became more involved with the MRF’s scientific portfolio from managing their grant program (which has awarded over 230 grants totaling more than $20.1M in funding support) to their scientific meetings (resulting in several white papers) to interfacing with several of their scientific partners (Society for Melanoma Research, Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative, etc.). This work culminated in my promotion to MRF Science Officer in 2018 to help manage not only the MRF science portfolio, but also to help integrate its efforts with the education and advocacy branches of the organization.

My background

My special area of interest is molecular regulation/ control of oncogenesis and the development of cancer clinical therapeutics. Prior to joining Emmes, I conducted laboratory research on: a novel mitotic exit checkpoint gene in various cell lines, the role of a gene involved in survival/ growth in pancreatic beta cells in several diabetic mouse models, and the localization of a gene involved in the development of fruit flies. These experiences in basic cancer research and molecular biology have lent themselves well to my current efforts with the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC), the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF), and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).


I have a BS from Cornell University. Subsequently, I received a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania. I then worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the Wistar Institute (in Philadelphia, PA) prior to joining Emmes.