Robert Farese, Jr., M.D.

Robert Farese, Jr., M.D.

Department Chair of Genetics & Complex Diseases, HSPH
Professor of Genetics & Complex Diseases, HSPH
Professor of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School
Associate Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
665 Huntington Avenue, Building 1, Room 207A, Boston, MA 02115

Dr. Robert Farese, Jr., studied chemistry at the University of Florida and medicine at Vanderbilt University. He then completed a residency and chief residency in internal medicine at the University of Colorado. In 1989, Dr. Farese moved to the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) to train in endocrinology and metabolism. He did his postdoctoral research training with Dr. Stephen Young at the Gladstone Institutes, where he became an expert in gene targeting in murine embryonic stem cells and studied lipoprotein and cholesterol metabolism. In 1994, Dr. Farese established his laboratory at the Gladstone Institutes and UCSF where he studied neutral lipid metabolism, focusing on the pathways of lipid synthesis and storage. His laboratory discovered genes encoding many of the important enzymes of neutral lipid synthesis, including the DGAT enzymes, which mediate triglyceride (TG) synthesis. Excessive accumulation of TGs underlies obesity, diabetes, fatty liver, and other metabolic diseases. Dr. Farese and co-workers defined the molecular functions of these enzymes biochemically and physiologically, and identified human disease mutations in them, laying the groundwork for development of DGAT inhibitors, now being investigated as potential treatments for disorders of TG metabolism.

In 2005, Dr. Farese took a sabbatical at UCSF with Dr. Peter Walter, where he began to study the cell biology of lipid droplets (LDs) with Dr. Tobias Walther, who was a postdoctoral fellow. These investigations continue to this day. Their research focuses on unraveling the molecular mechanisms of LD formation, protein targeting to LDs, and the role that LDs play in obesity and metabolic disease. Together, they discovered that there are two types of LDs in most cells, initial LDs and expanding LDs, which are formed in part, by DGAT1 and DGAT2, respectively. They also found that expanding LDs are generated upon formation of ER-LD membrane bridges that facilitate relocation of TG synthesis enzymes from the ER for localized TG synthesis, fueling LD growth.

In 2007, Dr. Farese co-founded the Consortium for Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) Research (CFR), a UCSF-based, collaborative effort that aims to identify cures for FTD by studying progranulin, a protein deficient in some forms of FTD. Dr. Farese and co-workers developed murine and iPS models for progranulin-haploinsufficient FTD and initiated studies to determine the molecular function of progranulin. He co-directs the Basic Research Program for the CFR and is a founding director of the Bluefield Project to Cure FTD.

Dr. Farese, Jr., is currently a Professor of Genetics and Complex Diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Professor of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School, and an Associate Member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where he runs a joint laboratory with his scientific partner, Dr. Tobias Walther. Dr. Farese has received numerous honors, including election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians, the Bristol-Myers Squibb “Freedom to Discover Award”, and the Avanti Award in Lipids.