Vanderbilt University names Indian American structural biologist as its Dean  


One of the world’s leading structural biologists, John Kuriyan will take over as the dean of the School of Medicine Basic Sciences at the Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Kuriyan, with a three-decades-old career including previous stints as a distinguished professor of Molecular and Cell Biology and professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, and investigator with Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will begin his new role from January 1, 2023. Kuriyan succeeds Lawrence J Marnett, the Founding Dean of Basic Sciences.

Kuriyan’s appointment was announced by the university, Tuesday, June 21.

An alumnus of the University of Madras, India, Kuriyan is the co0founder of Nutrix Therapeutics, a publicly-traded biotech company, that specializes in developing and testing therapies for late-stage cancers.

“The opportunity to come to Vanderbilt and join the leadership of one of the nation’s best schools for cutting edge bio-medical research is a tremendous honor and privilege,” said Kuriyan. “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 center and its unwavering commitment to diversity and belonging.”

The U.S. News, which ranks schools and colleges in the country, had ranked the Vanderbilt medicine school as 13th in the country.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Medicine, in addition to being a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Royal Society, the independent scientific academy of the United Kingdom had appointed Kuriyan as its foreign member.

Kuriyan’s appointment adds to the growing tribe of Indian Americans heading top schools and colleges in the U.S.

Srikant Datar succeeded another Indian American Nitin Nhoria as dean of the Harvard Business School, while Madhav V Rajan was appointed dean of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Among other top educators from Americans of Indian descent are C Mauli Agrawal, the chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Renu Khator, president of the University of Houston.

After spending two years studying at the University of Madras, Kuriyan took a transfer to the Juniata College in Huntington, Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor of Science and then proceeded to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for a doctorate in physical chemistry.

Martin Karplus, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2013, was among Kuriyan’s graduate advisers at MIT.

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.