Scientific Founder

David Sabatini, MD, PhD

As one of the most respected leaders in the field of molecular cell biology, Dr. David M. Sabatini has spent his career delving deeply into the mechanisms that regulate cell growth. His seminal research has focused on the mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) pathway, a critical regulator of cellular growth. His work includes the discovery of most of the protein components of the mTOR pathway, including mTOR itself, and ongoing investigation of their functions in diseases such as cancer and diabetes as well as in aging. Dr. Sabatini’s passion for the field is evident in his research, speeches, awards and dozens of scientific papers that have been published related to mTOR and its role in growth control.

Dr. Sabatini began his career as a 24-year-old MD-PhD student who joined The Johns Hopkins University lab of neuroscientist Solomon Snyder in the early 1990s. Given the opportunity to choose his research project, he chose the study of the rapamycin molecule. While still a student at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Sabatini discovered mTOR and the mode of action of rapamycin in 1994. This was the first of his many contributions to the field as, according to Dr. Snyder, “more than 90 percent of the discoveries that have made mTOR one of the hottest proteins in the world have largely been attributed to his work.”

Dr. Sabatini’s subsequent research led him to uncover the two distinct pathways that mTOR participates in: mTORC1 and mTORC2. Relevant to the activities of Navitor, Dr. Sabatini’s work on the mTORC1 pathway has elucidated its role in nutrient signaling that is central to cellular function, and revealed how nutrients and metabolism play a key role in many diseases. Ultimately, his discovery of the mTOR nutrient sensing pathway and its mechanisms for switching cell growth on and off opens promising opportunities to develop new treatments for many common and debilitating diseases such as cancer, diabetes, neurological and fibrotic disorders, immunometabolism, and rare genetic diseases.

Dr. Sabatini is a Member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Senior Associate Member at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and Member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, and Professor of Biology at MIT. He is also an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Dr. Sabatini received his BS from Brown University magna cum laude and his MD-PhD from The Johns Hopkins University in 1997. He has received a number of distinctions, including being named a W. M. Keck Foundation Distinguished Young Scholar, a Pew Scholar, and a recipient of the 2009 Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research, the 2012 ASBMB Earl and Theresa Stadtman Scholar Award, and the 2014 National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2016, and, most recently, received the 2017 Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences and the 2017 Dickson Prize from the University of Pittsburgh.

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