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Media Contact: Holly Korschun 11 July 2006    
  (404) 727-3990   Print  | Email ]

Emory School of Medicine Names 'Glycomics' Expert As New Chair of Biochemistry
Emory University School of Medicine has named Richard D. Cummings, PhD, a nationally recognized expert in the emerging research field of 'glycomics,' as the new chair of the Department of Biochemistry. Before joining the Emory faculty in June, Dr. Cummings was George Lynn Cross Distinguished Research Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. He held the Ed Miller Endowed Chair in Molecular Biology, was a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and was director and founder of the Oklahoma Center for Medical Glycobiology.

In 1999, Dr. Cummings was appointed co-director/coordinator of the newly established University of Oklahoma Bioengineering Center. Before joining the University of Oklahoma, he was professor of biochemistry at the University of Georgia and associate director of the UGA Complex Carbohydrate Research Center.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has identified the field of glycomics as a major new research focus, and Dr. Cummings has played a key role in the multi-institutional Consortium for Functional Glycomics funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). Glycomics is defined as the scientific pursuit of identifying and studying all of the carbohydrate molecules produced by an organism.

Dr. Cummings' research focuses on glycoconjugates, the carbohydrate molecules and their associated proteins that permit cells to communicate with and adhere to each other--transmitting and receiving chemical, electrical and mechanical messages that underlie all cellular and bodily functions. His research has a particular emphasis on the role of glycoconjugates in cardiovascular biology, autoimmune diseases, and parasitology. A hallmark of his research team has been the promotion of collaborative studies and training in glycobiology, and he has partnerships with more than a dozen other laboratories.

"It is my great honor to become the chair of the Department of Biochemistry at Emory University School of Medicine," said Dr. Cummings. "It is a privilege to join such an outstanding group of faculty, fellows, students and staff. I look forward to working with everyone in the coming years to help the department grow and continue to be recognized for its outstanding research and teaching. I also want to acknowledge the excellent work of Dr. Dean Danner, who has served as interim chair, and thank him for his service."

"I am very pleased to have Dr. Cummings join our School of Medicine, particularly as one of the initiatives in the University's new Strategic Plan is fundamental scientific research," said Thomas J. Lawley, MD, dean, Emory University School of Medicine. "Dr. Cummings is widely recognized as a ground breaker in biochemistry, and his leadership will be invaluable as we move past the human genome project into undiscovered territory and the next level of medical advancement."

Dr. Cummings received his bachelor's degree in 1974 from the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Alabama and his doctoral degree in 1980 from The Johns Hopkins University. He was a postdoctoral fellow in Hematology/Oncology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

"We are delighted and humbled to play a small part in the fine work Emory has done in the area of organ transplantation," said Alice Sheets, a grant administrator with Wachovia Trust and secretary of the Mason Trust. "Since the Mason Trust began grant making in 1993, the trust has granted more than $47 million toward providing access to care for patients in need of transplants, with more than $13.5 million to Emory. The Mason Trust is to be commended for positively impacting the lives of thousands of Georgia residents."

According to Thomas Lawley, MD, dean of the Emory Medical School, "The Mason Trust's generous support in creating the Mason Outpatient Transplant Clinic is only the most recent in a long chain of generosity to transplantation services and research at Emory. In fact, it is the one of the most generous examples of the Mason Trust's vision--a vision shared by Emory--of making transplantation possible for Georgians who need this life-saving operation and helping overcome the many challenges of transplantation. Those challenges are immense, challenges that are medical, emotional and financial. This clinic will be a godsend to thousands of Georgians, and I know the Masons would be proud for it to bear their name."

As part of the Mason Outpatient Transplant Clinic, patients will use pagers, similar to those in restaurants, for more freedom of movement while waiting. An LCD monitor in the waiting room will provide updates on waiting times, physician and other caregiver availability, education programs, and current information about transplantation.

The Emory Transplant Center is one of the most advanced and comprehensive transplant centers in the Southeast. It is the only institution in Georgia offering a full spectrum of transplantation services (heart, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas and islet) with more than 300 adult and pediatric transplants each year at Emory University Hospital and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. The Emory Transplant Center is a recognized national leader in research, fostering inter-departmental, multi-disciplinary grants from federal sources such as the National Institutes of Health and private foundations with current research funding of more than $8 million.

Dr. Cummings has served in numerous leadership roles at the NIH and in professional organizations. He is a member of the NIH Oncology Fellowship Review Panel, the Steering Committee for the Consortium for Functional Glycomics at NIGMS, and a member of the NIH study section on Tumor Microenvironment. He is past president of the Society for Glycobiology and is currently a member of the American Society of Parasitologists, the American Chemical Society, the American Society for Cell Biology, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He is associate editor of Glycoconjugate Journal and former associate editor of Biochemical Journal. He serves on the editorial boards for the journals Glycobiology, Glycoconjugate Journal, and Biochemica et Biophysica Acta and is a past member of the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

He has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator for eight NIH grants over the past 5 years. He is a frequent invited lecturer and has directed the research of more than 50 postdoctoral fellows, research associates, visiting scientists, masters degree students and doctoral students.

Dr. Cummings is an author of nearly 200 peer-reviewed journal publications and seven textbooks or book chapters. He holds 24 patents and has served as a scientific advisor for Amgen, Inc., Ross Laboratories/Abott Laboratories, Genzyme, and Neose Technologies, Inc. He was co-founder of the Athens, Georgia startup company ELA Technologies, created to develop bioluminescent proteins for enhanced detection and sensitivity in immunoassays. He serves as co-founder, president, and chief scientific officer of Selexys Pharmaceuticals Corporation in Oklahoma City, a University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center startup company with a pipeline of therapeutics for the treatment of inflammatory diseases.

Dr. Cummings and his wife, Sandy, have three children.

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