Ramnik Xavier, an institute member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, is also Chief of Gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Kurt Isselbacher Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and the director of MGH’s Center for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). As a clinical gastroenterologist and molecular biologist, he studies the specific molecular mechanisms involved in innate and adaptive immunity as well as the genetic variants associated with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and autoimmunity. His laboratory uses genetic, structural, computational, animal models, and clinical research to define the mechanisms controlling inflammation and immunity in vivo.
Working on a project funded by The Leona M. And Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, Xavier is seeking a better understanding of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, based on the soaring number of genes now known to be implicated in the two immune-related disorders. His lab has translated an unprecedented number of genes to function, and Xavier has published more than 200 peer-reviewed papers over the course of his career.
Recent findings in Xavier’s laboratory have helped elucidate the role of autophagy – a cellular process that digests and recycles proteins -- in the development of Crohn’s disease. His team has also discovered novel immune regulatory genes involved in innate and adaptive immunity; identified innate immune pathways that sense microbial invaders (danger signals); and pinpointed metabolic stress programs in immunity. In addition, Xavier and his team are part of the Human Microbiome Project (HMP2) funded by the NIH Common Fund and Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, and are pursuing new methods to understand the relationship between microbes living in the human gut and IBD and to connect these patterns back to human genetics. Xavier also co-directs the Center for Microbiome Informatics and Therapeutics at MIT and leads a program to look for connections between the microbiome and type 1 diabetes.
Through a transformative collaboration with the Broad’s Chemical Biology Platform, the Xavier laboratory aims to discover small molecules that can correct pathways defective in Crohn’s and autoimmunity. Xavier and his colleagues have made progress in identifying small molecules in the autophagy pathway (Crohn’s), and small molecules that control cytokine function and regulatory T cells (Crohn’s and type 1 diabetes).
In his role as Chief of Gastroenterology at MGH, which he assumed in 2010, Xavier oversees one of the only comprehensive, multidisciplinary programs in New England dedicated to diagnosing, treating, and managing patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the center third in the country for digestive care (#1 in New England). Xavier was elected to the American Association of Physicians in 2011and is also a fellow of the American College of Physicians and a fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology.
Xavier received his M.B., Ch.B. from the University of Zimbabwe and completed his residency and fellowship at MGH.