Richard D. Cummings, PhD

S. Daniel Abraham Professor of Surgery in the Field of Nutrition Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Surgery Vice Chair, Basic and Translational Research, BIDMC
Director, National Center for Functional Glycomics
Director, Harvard Medical School Center for Glycoscience

Research Group

Lauren Byrd-Leotis, PhD
Deniz Eris, PhD
Chao Gao, PhD
Melinda Hanes, PhD
Jamie Heimburg-Molinaro, PhD
Nan Jia, PhD
Sylvain Lehoux, PhD
Yasuyuki Matsumoto, PhD
Tanya McKitrick, PhD
Akul Mehta, PhD
Kathryn A. Stackhouse, MD
Kathrin Stavenhagen, PhD
Xiaodong Sun, PhD
Mohui Wei, PhD
Junwei Zeng, PhD

Research Focus

A key quest of my research during the past 35 years has been to understand the structure and function of glycoconjugates in cell adhesion and signaling, studying the molecular and biochemical functions of surface and secreted glycoproteins in normal biological processes and disease. We study the molecular nature and specificity of protein-glycan interactions and their roles in biology, and how glycans are recognized by glycan-binding proteins (GBPs). My laboratory has been instrumental in developing new technologies in glycoscience, discovering novel functions of glycans in immune recognition and modulation, viral (influenza), parasitic (helminth) and bacterial infections, cell adhesion, selectin biology and leukocyte trafficking, new enzymes and molecular chaperones that regulate protein glycosylation, and educating students in the field of glycoscience.

Early work in our laboratory established the identities and specificities of many glycosyltransferases and glycan-binding proteins and plant lectins. In our translational studies, we are exploring glycoimmunology, and the roles of adaptive and innate immune responses to pathogens, as well as human diseases that are both heritable and acquired, and which involve altered glycosylation. We have developed novel techniques in the field for glycan analysis and for exploring the structure/function relationships of glycans, using genetic/molecular approaches, biophysical and biochemical strategies, and multiple glycan microarray and glycan bead strategies. We are also developing semi-synthetic methods for making glycoconjugates and for isolating, characterizing, and derivatizing glycans. Such technologies are revolutionary and are growing at a rapid pace; thus, I expect such microarray (and flow cytometry-based arrays) to be a major contributor to the field of glycoscience going forward.

I hold numerous patents in the field of glycoscience. My laboratory is the headquarters of the National Center for Functional Glycomics (NCFG), of which I am the Director, and the Protein-Glycan Interaction Resource of the Consortium for Functional Glycomics (CFG), of which I am the Chair, and offers glycan microarray services to hundreds of laboratories worldwide. We also have a strong effort in promoting and developing bioinformatics and databases related to glycoscience. My laboratory and the NCFG moved to Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in the fall of 2015, where I have founded and was appointed Director of the new Harvard Medical School Center for Glycoscience. My research goals are centered on identifying the structures, functions and biosynthesis of complex glycoconjugates in a variety of normal and pathologic biological processes.

Accomplishments 2016-2017

  • Director, National Center for Functional Glycomics (NCFG), 2015-Present
  • Highlight and interview by Elizabeth Cooney, HMS News, “Sweet Spot” 2016
  • Interview by Vivien Marx, “Metabolism: sweeter paths in glycoscience”, in Nature Methods 2017;14(7):667.
  • Invited Speaker, Tufts University School of Medical, Boston, MA, 2016
  • Invited Speaker, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Oklahoma City, OK, 2016
  • Invited Keynote Lecturer, EMBO Workshop, Nice, France, 2016
  • Presenter Opening Session, 2016 Society for Glycobiology Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA, 2016
  • Appointed Professor of Surgery, 2017
  • Appointed Member, Scientific Advisory Board, Institute for Protein Innovation, HMS, 2017
  • CCR Investigator, NCI Chemical Biology Laboratory, 2017
  • Appointed Associate Editor – Science Advances, 2017
  • Invited Speaker, Abbott Nutrition Internal Science Meeting, Columbus, OH, 2017
  • Invited Grand Rounds Lecturer, Department of Surgery, BIDMC, 2017
  • Duke University, Department of Biochemistry, Durham, NC, 2017
  • University of Georgia and CCRC, Atlanta, GA, 2017
  • Invited Speaker, Gordon Research Conference, Glycobiology 2017, Ventura, CA, 2017
  • Invited Speaker, ASBMB Annual Meeting, Experimental Biology 2017, Chicago, IL, 2017
  • Invited Presenter, BioMedical Seminar, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, 2017
  • Invited Presenter, Alliance of Glycobiologists for Detection of Cancer, Steering Committee Meeting, Bethesda, MD, 2017
  • Invited Presenter, NIH & FDA Glycoscience Research Day, Bethesda, MD, 2017
  • Invited Speaker, 12th Jenner Glycobiology and Medicine Symposium, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 2017
  • Invited Speaker, ESPGHAN Annual Meeting, Abbott Sponsored Symposium, Prague, Czech Republic, 2017
  • Invited Presenter, 2017 Gordon Research Conference on Carbohydrates, Mount Snow, VT, 2017
  • Invited Speaker, CEIRS Network Annual Meeting, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, 2017
  • Invited Speaker, Siamab Therapeutics, Newton, MA, 2017
  • Scientific Advisory Board Meeting, Gates Foundation, Ragon Institute, Cambridge, MA, 2017
  • Invited Speaker, 24th International Symposium on Glycoconjugates, Jeju Island, Korea, 2017
  • Invited Speaker, Center for Immunology and Inflammatory Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, MA, 2017
  • “Compositions and uses of lectins”- Patent #9,572,864B2, R.D. Cummings, Sean R. Stowell, Connie Arthur; Emory University, 2017
  • “Compositions and Methods for Functional Glycomics”- Patent #9,772,337, R.D. Cummings, David F. Smith, Xuezheng Song; Emory University, 2017

Teaching, Training, and Education

In 2017, I was inducted into the BIDMC Academy of Medical Educators.

I mentored three doctoral students, two of whom completed their degrees. In 2016, Alexander Noll received his PhD from Emory University with a thesis entitled “Human Milk Glycan Interactions with Glycan-Binding Proteins of the Gastrointestinal Tract.” He published three original peer-reviewed publications and has a comprehensive review ready for submission. In 2017, Matthew Kudelka received his PhD from Emory University with a thesis entitled “Cosmc is an X-linked inflammatory bowel disease risk gene that spatially regulates gut microbiota and contributes to sex-specific risk.” He published three original peer-reviewed publications and three reviews. Chris Cutler remains under my direction for his PhD work at BIDMC, granted from Emory University.

Selected Research Support

National Center for Functional Glycomics; NIH/NIGMS, 2013-2018; PI: Richard D. Cummings, PhD
Modulation of inflammatory responses by helminth glycans; NIH/NIGMS, 2013-2018; PI: Richard D. Cummings, PhD
Smart Anti-Glycan Reagents to Generate the Human Glycome Atlas; NIH/NCI, 2015-2018; MPI: Richard D. Cummings, PhD (Co-PI: Ray Mernaugh, PhD, Vanderbilt University)
Discovery Platform of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Glycans; Gates Foundation, 2016-2018; PI: Richard D. Cummings, PhD               

Human Milk Glycan Research; Abbott Laboratories Contract, 2015-2018; PI: Richard D. Cummings, PhD

Selected Publications

Kudelka MR, Hinrichs B, Darby T, Moreno CS, Nishio H, Cutler CE, Wang J, Wu H, Zeng J, Wang Y, Ju T, Stowell SR, Nusrat A, Jones RM, Neish AS, Cummings RD. Cosmc is an X-linked Inflammatory Bowel Disease Risk Gene that Spatially Regulates Gut Microbiota and Contributes to Sex-specific Risk. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2016;113(51):14787-14792.

Schneider C, Wicki S, Graeter S, Timcheva TM, Keller CW, Quast I, Leontyev D, Djoumerska-Alexieva IK, Käsermann F, Jakob SM, Dimitrova PA, Branch DR, Cummings RD, Lünemann JD, Kaufmann T, Simon HU, von Gunten S. IVIG regulates the survival of human but not mouse neutrophils. Sci Rep 2017;7(1):1296.

Laan LC, Williams AR, Stavenhagen K, Giera M, Kooij G, Vlasakov I, Kalay H, Kringel H, Nejsum P, Thamsborg SM, Wuhrer M, Dijkstra CD, Cummings RD, van Die I. The whipworm (Trichuris suis) secretes prostaglandin E2 to suppress proinflammatory properties in human dendritic cells. FASEB J, 2017;31(2):719-731.

Hanes MS, Moremen KW, Cummings RD. Biochemical characterization of functional domains of the chaperone Cosmc. PLoS One, 2017;12(6): e0180242.

Varki A, Cummings RD, Esko J. Essentials of Glycobiology – 3rd Edition. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press Inc., Boston, 2017. [Note that Cummings is the illustrator for all figures in all editions of Essentials of Glycobiology.]