Chaitan Khosla

Stanford University

Primary Section: 14, Chemistry
Secondary Section: 21, Biochemistry
Membership Type: Member (elected 2020)


Chaitan Khosla (Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Stanford University, and Director of Stanford’s Innovative Medicines Accelerator) received his PhD in 1990 at Caltech. After completing postdoctoral studies at the John Innes Centre, UK, he joined Stanford University in 1992. His work on antibiotic biosynthetic mechanisms led to new methods for engineering enzyme assembly lines that make novel anti-infective agents. He and his collaborators have also studied the molecular basis of celiac disease; this work has led to the discovery of two experimental medicines undergoing clinical trials. Khosla has co-authored over 350 peer-reviewed publications and 75 issued U.S. patents, and is an elected member of the American Academy for Arts and Science, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Sciences. In 2013 he helped launch Stanford ChEM-H, which brings together chemists, engineers, biologists and clinicians to understand life at a molecular level and apply that knowledge to improving human health. He served as the institute’s founding Director until 2020. Over the past three decades, Khosla has helped launch four biotechnology companies.

Research Interests

Research in this laboratory focuses on problems where deep insights into enzymology and metabolism can be harnessed to improve human health. We have studied and engineered enzymatic assembly lines called polyketide synthases that catalyze the biosynthesis of structurally complex and medicinally fascinating antibiotics in bacteria. An example of such an assembly line is found in the erythromycin biosynthetic pathway. Our current focus is on understanding the structure and mechanism of this polyketide synthase. At the same time, we are developing methods to decode the vast and growing number of orphan polyketide assembly lines in the sequence databases.   We have also investigated the pathogenesis of celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine, with the goal of discovering therapies for this widespread but overlooked disease. Ongoing efforts focus on understanding the pivotal role of transglutaminase 2 in triggering the inflammatory response to dietary gluten in the celiac patient's intestine.

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