Benjamin A. Garcia, PhD, a noted leader in the field of biochemistry, especially for his work advancing mass spectrometry techniques, has been named head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Garcia, whose appointment tentatively is set to begin July 1, also will become the Raymond H. Wittcoff Distinguished Professor.
The school’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics has an illustrious history as home to some of the nation’s most distinguished scientists, including scientific innovator Roy Vagelos, who headed the department — then called the Department of Biological Chemistry — from 1966-75 and went on to lead the development of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs at Merck; and Nobel laureates Carl Cori and Gerty Cori, known for their work showing how muscles manufacture and store energy. Understanding this process shed light on treatments for diabetes.
Garcia comes to Washington University from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, where he is the John McCrea Dickson, MD, Presidential Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and director of quantitative proteomics.
“Dr. Garcia was selected from an impressive pool of candidates and was unanimously endorsed as the most exceptional person to launch the next era of advancing knowledge and discovery in this vitally important department,” said David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine, and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor. “We found ourselves energized by his vision for the department to continue to be at the forefront of the field and to leverage the breadth of collaborative opportunities within our biomedical research community. His personal research program, in proteomic analysis of epigenetic regulation, supports our long-term strategic institutional goal to transition our leadership in genomics into multi-omic systems medicine, which will serve as an engine producing the most imaginative approaches to personalized health care.”
Garcia’s research has focused on developing new and advanced methods for using mass spectrometry and to analyze proteins called histones that help regulate DNA. Such analyses can shed light on basic biology and disease processes. His methods have revolutionized analysis of the proteins and genetics of cells from animal models and human samples. The research has led to important observations about the regulation of cell differentiation, growth of tissues, and the development of cancer. He has developed an extensive research network that has been supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) throughout his career. He is active in partnerships with industry, previously establishing a technology alliance partnership with Thermo-Fisher to develop advanced mass spectrometry instruments and methods.