India-born John Kuriyan named dean of Vanderbilt School of Medicine Basic Sciences

HOUSTON, June 24: Leading India-born structural biologist, John Kuriyan, has been named as the next dean of the Vanderbilt School of Medicine Basic Sciences, joining a growing number of Indian-Americans heading top US schools and colleges.
Kuriyan’s appointment, effective January 1, 2023, will advance the university’s goal of expanding its global research impact by leveraging fundamental investigations in molecular, cellular and developmental biology into foundational advances in drug discovery, pharmacology and genetic engineering, Vanderbilt said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Vanderbilt School of Medicine Basic Sciences is based in the US state of Tennessee.
Originally from India, Kuriyan will succeed Lawrence J Marnett, the founding dean of Basic Sciences, who has agreed to extend his leadership through December.
A distinguished professor of molecular and cell biology and professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator for more than 30 years, Kuriyan studied for two years at the University of Madras before transferring to Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.
“The opportunity to come to Vanderbilt and join the leadership of one of the nation’s best schools for cutting-edge biomedical research is a tremendous honour and privilege,” Kuriyan said in an announcement of his appointment by Vanderbilt University.
“I am impressed by Vanderbilt’s deeply collaborative and collegial community, its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to research, its unique partnership with a world-class medical centre and its unwavering commitment to diversity and belonging,” he said.
He earned a bachelor of science in chemistry from Juniata College in 1981 and enrolled in graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a doctorate in physical chemistry in 1986.
He was a post-doctoral fellow with Professors Martin Karplus (Harvard) and Gregory A. Petsko (MIT). From 1987 to 2001 he was on the faculty of The Rockefeller University, New York, where he was promoted to full Professor in 1993.
Kuriyan is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a foreign member of the Royal Society, the independent scientific academy of the UK.
His influential graduate advisers were distinguished scientist Martin Karplus, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
Kuriyan joins a growing number of Indian-Americans heading top US schools and colleges like Srikant Datar, the dean of the Harvard business school and Madhav V. Rajan, the dean of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, C. Mauli Agrawal, chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Renu Khator, president of the University of Houston, Texas.
“We are thrilled to welcome John Kuriyan, an internationally renowned biomedical scientist and innovator, to lead the school of Medicine Basic Sciences and strengthen it for the future, Vanderbilt University Chancellor, Daniel Diermeier said in a tweet soon after the announcement on June 21.
The university said that Kuriyan’s own research focuses on the workings of molecular switches in the cell, which has revealed pioneering new insights into the ways that many drugs used to treat certain forms of cancer gain their specificity at the molecular level.
Kuriyan co-founded Nurix Therapeutics, a publicly-traded biotech company developing therapies for late-stage cancers. (PTI)