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Sekar Kathiresan

Sekar Kathiresan, M.D.

Sekar Kathiresan, a physician-scientist and a human geneticist, is an institute member at the Broad Institute, where he directs the Cardiovascular Disease Initiative and co-directs the Program in Medical and Population Genetics. He is also the director of the Center for Genomic Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Kathiresan has systematically pursued an understanding of the genetic basis for heart attack to discover root causes, inform new therapeutic approaches, and identify at-risk individuals. He has distinguished non-causal factors (HDL cholesterol) from causal factors (LDL cholesterol, lipoprotein(a), triglyceride-rich lipoproteins, and abdominal adiposity). His work identified that individuals who carry mutations which break either of two genes — APOC3 or ANGPTL3 — rapidly clear triglyceride-rich lipoproteins from the circulation and are protected from heart attack. These observations have inspired the development of medicines to mimic these protective mutations.

Most recently, he has uncovered two non-lipid pathways underlying heart attack risk: (1) genes that regulate the migration of inflammatory cells across the blood vessel lining into the artery wall; (2) acquired mutations in blood stem cells that increase with aging and provoke inflammation. Finally, he has developed a genetic test (i.e., polygenic risk score) to predict risk for heart attack and shown that statin therapy and/or a healthier lifestyle can modify inherited risk.

For his scientific contributions, he has been recognized by the American Heart Association with the Distinguished Scientist Award in 2017 and by the American Society of Human Genetics with the Curt Stern Award in 2018.

Kathiresan received his B.A. in history and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania. He received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He then completed his clinical training in internal medicine and cardiology at MGH, where he served as chief resident in internal medicine. Kathiresan pursued research training in cardiovascular genetics through a combined experience at the Framingham Heart Study and the Broad Institute. In 2008, he joined the faculties of the MGH Cardiology Division, Cardiovascular Research Center, and Center for Genomic Medicine.

September 2018