Alessio Fasano, MD

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Chief, Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Director, Center for Celiac Research and Mucosal Immunology & Bio Rearsch Center, Vice Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Basic, Clinical and Translational Research, Visiting Professor, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

World-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist, research scientist, and entreprenuer Alessio Fasano, M.D., founded the Center for Celiac Research in 1996. The Center offers state-of-the art research, clinical expertise and teaching for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of gluten-related disorders, including celiac disease, wheat allergy, and gluten sensitivity. Trained in Naples, Italy, as a pediatric gastroenterologist, Dr. Fasano was recruited to the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1993 and founded its Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. Puzzled by the absence of children exhibiting symptoms of celiac disease in the clinic, he resolved to uncover the mystery of missing American “celiacs.” His perseverance in the face of skepticism about celiac disease in the U.S. eventually led to his publication of the groundbreaking study in 2003 that established the rate of the autoimmune disorder at one in 133 people in the United States. Dr. Fasano’s research focuses on mucosal biology of the gut and transcends the disciplines of microbiology, molecular and cell biology, and physiology. A firm believer in the serendipitous discoveries that result from collaboration, Dr. Fasano leads a team of 30 researchers in nine countries and enjoys research partnerships with institutions around the world. By focusing on the “cross talk” between enteric pathogens and their hosts, Dr. Fasano’s group has elucidated various organs and cell functions involved in health and disease, including inflammation and autoimmunity. The discovery of bacterial toxins that cause diarrhea by Fasano’s team led to the development of new vaccines. Their work also led to the discovery in 2000 of the ancient molecule zonulin, which regulates the permeability of the intestine. Dr. Fasano’s research has linked an overproduction of zonulin and, therefore, of increased intestinal permeability to the pathogenesis of a series of autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and multiple sclerosis. Dr. Fasano has published more than 230 peer-reviewed papers and has filed more than 160 patent applications. An elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, he has received numerous awards for his translational science and other achievements including the Harry Shwachman Award from the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition in 2012. He has been named as one of America’s Top Doctors by Castle Connolly for five consecutive years (2007-2011) and was a 2005 finalist for the National Institute of Health (NIH) Director’s Pioneer Award. Dr. Fasano’s research has been continuously funded by the NIH since 1995. He served as a member of the Gastrointestinal Cell and Molecular Biology NIH study section from 2005 to 2008 and continues his activity as an ad hoc reviewer. In 2010 he was elected as a member of the NIH College of Center for Scientific Review (CSR) Reviewers. In early 2013, Dr. Fasano was appointed Division Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. He brought the Center for Celiac Research to Boston, where he and his team of clinicians treat patients of all ages. Dr. Fasano also heads the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center, based in Charlestown, and is Associate Chief for Basic, Clinical and Translational Research for the Department of Pediatrics at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. He is a Visiting Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.