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Varki set for Discovery Lecture

Mar. 16, 2017, 8:40 AM

Ajit Varki, M.D., a pioneer in the field of molecular glycobiology at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), will deliver the next Flexner Discovery Lecture on Thursday, March 23.

Ajit Varki, M.D.

His lecture, “Glycans: the Dark Matter of the Biological Universe,” will begin at 4 p.m. in 208 Light Hall. It is sponsored by the Department of Medicine.

Varki is Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular & Molecular Medicine and co-director of the UCSD Glycobiology Research and Training Center.

He also is an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and executive co-director of the UCSD/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (the study of the origin of humankind).

Glycobiology is the study of sugar chains called saccharides or glycans, which mediate or modulate biological processes including sub-cellular and cellular trafficking, intercellular adhesion, signaling and microbial attachment. Glycans are involved in embryonic development, tissue organization, tumor metastasis and in the interactions between cells and extra-cellular molecules.

Varki’s research interests are focused on a family of cell-surface sugars called sialic acids. Active projects include the role of sialic acids in microbial infectivity, regulation of the immune response, tumor progression and spread and unique aspects of human evolution.

A member of the National Academies, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Society for Clinical Investigation, and the Association of American Physicians, he has received the two highest honors in his field: the Karl Meyer Award of the Society for Glycobiology and the International Glycoconjugate Organization Award.

For a complete schedule of the Flexner Discovery Lecture series and archived video of previous lectures, visit

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