Principal Investigator

Alan Saghatelian

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.

Qian Chu

Postdoctoral Fellow

Qian obtained his B.S. 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 smORF encoded microproteins and their biological activities.

Thomas Martinez

Postdoctoral Fellow

Thomas received his B.S. in Biological Engineering from MIT and Ph.D. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics from Caltech under the mentorship of Prof. Peter Dervan. His thesis work focused primarily on characterizing the effects of DNA binding pyrrole-imidazole polyamides on DNA replication in prostate cancer cells. In the Saghatelian lab, he has developed an integrative platform combining ribosome profiling and RNA-Seq to discover functional smORF encoded microproteins in the human genome. Thomas is currently an NIH NRSA postdoctoral fellow.

Meriç Erikci Ertunc

Postdoctoral Fellow

Meriç received her B.S. in Molecular Biology and Genetics from Bilkent University, Turkey and Ph.D. from Harvard University in Dr. Gökhan Hotamışlıgil’s lab. Her Ph.D. work focused on mechanisms underlying regulation of whole-body glucose homeostasis by adipose tissue lipid signaling during which she received an NIH Roadmap Fellowship and Harvard Merit Fellowship. She joined the Saghatelian lab to pursue her interest in the impact of lipid signaling on physiological and pathophysiological processes via integrating lipidomics, biochemistry methods and in vivo models of metabolic and inflammatory diseases. She currently focuses on understanding the regulation and action of lipid class FAHFAs which have anti-inflammatory and metabolically beneficial characteristics. Meriç was a Catharina Foundation Fellow and is currently an NRSA fellow.

Dan Tan

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dan received her B.S. in Biotechnology from Hunan Normal University, China and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from National Institute of Biological Sciences, Beijing, China. During her graduate study, she developed a new method of chemical cross-linking coupled with mass spectrometry for mapping protein-protein interaction networks and comparing protein conformational states. In her current work, she focuses on developing methods to study FAHFA metabolism and investigating the roles of lipids in Alzheimer’s disease using lipidomics approach.

Almudena Garcia-Ruiz

Postdoctoral Fellow

Almudena is a biologist and food scientist. She received her B.S. in Biology and Food Science and Technology from University of Seville and University of Cordoba, respectively, and then completed her Ph.D. at Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain. Her previous work focused on enological biotechnology and characterization of functional foods. Currently, she is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow and studies the potential of small open reading frames (smORF) as new modulators of disorders of dietary excess.

Lina Xie

Postdoctoral Fellow

Lina received her B.S. in Chemistry from Sun Yat-sen University in China and then completed her Ph.D. in Chemistry in Tadhg Begley’s lab at Texas A & M University, where she worked on cofactor-independent dioxygenase mechanism and selectively labeling the thiocarboxylated proteins in bacterial proteomes. She joined the Saghatelian lab as a postdoc in January 2019 and is mainly focused on discovery and characterization of smORF encoded polypeptides (SEPs) and their biophysical/biochemical properties.

Ray Mak

Graduate Student

Ray is a Ph.D. candidate in Biological Sciences at UC San Diego. He received a B.Sc. in Biochemistry from the University of Toronto and an M.Sc. in Biology from ETH Zurich. He completed his master’s thesis in the lab of Ruedi Aebersold and then worked on ubiquitin proteomics with Eric Bennett at UC San Diego. In the Saghatelian lab, he is applying genomics and proteomics methods to the discovery of cancer-associated microproteins. He also enjoys science outreach and can be found doing SciChats and hosting lab tours for Aaron Price Fellows and other high school students. Ray is currently supported by a graduate fellowship from the Mary K. Chapman Foundation. LinkedIn:

Tina Chang

Graduate Student

Tina received her B.S. in Biochemistry from UCSD. Her undergraduate project focused on studying the development of adult-born dentate granule cells in mice hippocampi. As a current graduate student, she is interested in understanding how chemical modifications can modulate the anti-inflammatory abilities of FAHFAs for mechanistic and therapeutic purposes.

Antonio Pinto

Mass Spectrometry Specialist

Antonio Pinto graduated from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, with a B.S. in Biology and later with a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology in 2006. Antonio has over ten years of experience with mass spectrometry-based analysis in a variety of biological systems, including two years of post-doctoral training in the Yates Lab at The Scripps Research Institute. He joined Salk in November of 2016 to establish metabolomics within the Mass Spectrometry Core.
Cindy Donaldson

Cindy Donaldson

Lab Coordinator

Cindy has a B.S. in Biochemistry from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. During her time at the Salk, she has been involved in the cloning and characterization of the ligands and receptors in both the activin family and CRF superfamily.   She currently is involved in many support roles in the discovery and characterization of smORFs and FAFHAs.

Joan Vaughan

Research Assistant

Joan has extensive experience in the isolation of novel peptides and proteins from mammalian tissues and fluids. She was an integral member of the Salk team lead by Wylie Vale that isolated and characterized a number of brain peptide hormones regulating growth, appetite, stress, parturition, reproduction, metabolism and immune responses. Joan also characterized inhibin and activin family proteins and their soluble binding partners. She has considerable experience in the design of peptide analogues for antigens and for labeling with isotopes or chromophores; the production and purification of polyclonal antisera against peptides/proteins; and the use of antisera to develop immunoassays for the measurement of regulatory peptides and small proteins.

Justin Wang

Research Assistant

Justin graduated from New York University in 2018 with a B.S. in Biology. At NYU, he helped characterize a pair of neurons hypothesized to regulate glucose homeostasis in Drosophila. Currently, he is aiding FAHFA lipid research in mice exploring their anti-inflammatory and metabolically therapeutic potential.