Ajit VarkiDepartment of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA F1000 Faculty Member (since 23 February 2011)
Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular & Molecular Medicine
Co-Director, Glycobiology Research and Training Center
Co-Director, University of California, San Diego/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA)
Ajit Varki received basic training in physiology, medicine, biology, and biochemistry at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, The University of Nebraska, and Washington University in St Louis. He also has formal training and certification in internal medicine, hematology, and oncology.
Dr Varki is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, and the Association of American Physicians.
HONORS AND AWARDS:
Dr Varki is recipient of a MERIT award from the NIH, an American Cancer Society Faculty Research Award, the Karl Meyer Award of the Society for Glycobiology and the International Glycoconjugate Organization (IGO) Award (2007).
He serves on the National Chimpanzee Observatory Working Group; the scientific advisory board of the Huntsman Cancer Institute (University of Utah), and the editorial board of Glycobiology. He is a specialist advisor to the Human Gene Nomenclature Committee. Significant past appointments include: Associate Dean for Physician-Scientist Training at UCSD (2003-10); co-head, Division of Hematology/Oncology (1987-89): president of the Society for Glycobiology (1996); editor-in-chief of the Journal of Clinical Investigation (1992-97); consulting editor for the Journal of Clinical Investigation (1998-2006), and PLoS Medicine (2004-2008); interim directorship of the UCSD Cancer Center (1996-97); president of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (1998-99); scientific advisor to the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center (University of Georgia); the Yerkes Primate Center (Emory University); member of the National Advisory Committee of PubMed Central (NLM/NIH); and coordinator for the multidisciplinary UCSD Project for Explaining the Origins of Humans (1996-2007).
We are interested in the biosynthesis, genetics, evolution and biology of the complex array of sugar chains found on the surfaces of cells. The present focus is on the sialic acids, which are found at the outermost position on the glycan chains of all vertebrate cell surfaces and glycoproteins. Currently active projects are relevant to the roles of sialic acids in viral and bacterial infectivity, the regulation of the immune response, the initiation and progression of tumors and unique aspects of human evolution. We are particularly intrigued to find multiple differences in sialic acid biology between humans and our closest evolutionary cousins, the great apes. These differences are a signature of the multiple cellular and molecular events that occurred during the last few million years of human evolution, and are relevant to understanding several aspects of the current human condition, both in health and disease. We apply all relevant tools of molecular and cellular biology and biochemistry to study these issues, also using genetically modified mice as needed.
Ajit Varki talks about glycobiology in the context of evolution. [Video uploaded 02 June 2011]
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