Salk Institute

Saghatelian Lab
Saghatelian Lab

Saghatelian Lab - Personnel

Principal Investigator

Alan Saghatelian's lab dives into the discovery and characterization of novel molecules associated with human disease, such as diabetes, cancer and autoimmune disease. What makes his lab unique in this endeavor is the focus on the biology of metabolites and peptides—two classes of molecules that are extremely important in biology but understudied because of technical challenges. Exploring this uncharted territory has enabled the Saghatelian lab to discover novel lipids that reduce inflammation and improve the symptoms of diabetes and identify a previously unknown cluster of human genes that produce peptides and small proteins that control fundamental cellular processes, such as DNA repair, highlighting their potential importance in cancer.

Research Associates

Tejia Zhangtzhang@salk.eduTejia received her undergraduate degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. from Harvard University. She is currently studying lipid pathways in apoptosis and Type II Diabetes.

Shili Chenshchen@salk.eduShili received his B.S. degree in Xiamen University and then completed his Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry in Prof. Guowang Xu's lab at Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2013, working on mass spectrometry-based metabolomics and lipidomics and their applications in diseases research. After then he joined the Saghatelian Lab as a postdoc and is currently focused on mass spectrometry-based metabolites and peptides analyses, particularly on lipids and short ORF-encoded polypeptides (SEPs), and their applications in biological systems.

Qian Chuqchu@salk.eduQian got his B.S. degree in Chemistry from Nanjing University in China and then completed his Ph.D. in Chemical Biology in Gregory Verdine's lab at Harvard University, where he worked on targeted ubiquitination and degradation using bifunctional stapled peptides. He joined the Saghatelian lab as a postdoc in July 2014 and is mainly focused on discovery and characterization of sORF encoded polypeptides (SEPs) and their biological activities.

Chris Vickerscvickers@salk.eduChris received his B.S. degree in Biochemistry from Florida State University in 2009. After moving to La Jolla, California, he received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from The Scripps Research Institute in 2014 under the mentorship of Prof. Dennis Wolan. His thesis work focused on the development of novel caspase inhibitors and activity-based probes that are valuable tools for dissecting the functions of individual caspases in biology. As a member of the Saghatelian lab, Chris is building a research program focused on investigating the physiological functions of bioactive peptides and determining whether these pathways can be exploited in therapeutic development. Chris plans to pursue an academic career in chemical biology after completion of his postdoctoral studies.

Matt Kolarmkolar@salk.eduMatt is a Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD) student at UCSD School of Medicine. He received his B.S. degree in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and then worked as a research assistant in Gregory Verdine’s lab at Harvard University. Matt’s thesis work in the Saghatelian lab focuses on discovery and characterization of FAHFA degrading enzymes.

Senior Research Technician

Joan Vaughanvaughan@salk.eduJoan Vaughan has expertise in the isolation of novel neuroendocrine peptides and proteins from native tissues and fluids, design of antigens, and polyclonal antisera production and purification. She characterized carp growth hormone releasing factor (GRF), rat melanin concentrating hormone (MCH), rat urocortin 1 (Ucn 1), and contributed substantially to the characterization of Ucn 2 and Ucn 3 and to the isolation of rat and human GRF and rat corticotropin releasing factor (CRF). She participated in the isolation and characterization of dimeric inhibins and activins from gonadal tissues and identified inhibin and activin binding proteins. She has produced and characterized extensively used antiserum to a vast number of peptides/proteins, their soluble and membrane bound binding proteins and developed immunoassays for the measurement of neuropeptides and endocrine proteins. Additionally, Joan has expertise in the design of peptide analogues for labeling and in the radiolabeling of synthetic peptides and native proteins for use as tracers.

Lab Manager

Cynthia Donaldsondonaldson@salk.eduCindy Donaldson has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She has been involved in the cloning and characterization of the ligands and receptors in both the activin family and CRF superfamily. Her skills include molecular biology, tissue culture, immunoassays, and bioassays.

Exchange Student

Jiao Majma@salk.eduJiao received her B.S. degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry from University of Washington. Currently, she is a graduate student at Harvard University and an exchange student in Saghatelian lab. Her thesis work focuses on developing protein mass spectrometry based discovery pipeline to detect and validate sORF-Encoded Polypeptides (SEPs), as well as functionally characterize SEPs in mammalian cell lines.

Lab Administrators

Debbie Doanjohns@salk.eduDebbie received her B.A. degree in Psychology from Seaver College at Pepperdine University and a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential from San Diego State University. She is currently the Clayton Foundation Administrator in the Peptide Biology Laboratory. She studies human nature in the laboratory setting while providing administrative support for everyone in PBL.

Jannis Harrisharris@salk.eduJanis serves as the Peptide Biology Lab Administrative Manager. She brings a strong knowledge of budget management and financial analysis experience to PBL after 20 years of providing grant administrative guidance to the lab. As Lab Manager, Janis provides enthusiastic lab and administrative operations support, in addition to her resourceful nature and problem solving abilities.

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