2019 President’s Innovator Award Winner

The 2019 President’s Innovator Award was presented to Dr. Gerald Hart, Professor and GRA Eminent Scholar in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Complex Carbohydrate Research Center at the University of Georgia. While Dr. Hart (“Jerry”) is most famous for creating an entirely new field in glycobiology, the dynamic and inducible modification of nuclear and cytosolic proteins via O-GlcNAc, his previous scientific accomplishments in the glycoscience arena were also immense. As a graduate student with Gary W. Conrad at Kansas State University, Jerry made seminal contributions to the role of GAGs in corneal development. As a post-doctoral fellow in Bill Lennarz’ laboratory, Jerry defined the minimal sequence requirement for N-linked protein glycosylation, the so-called “sequon” [N-X(not P)-S/T]. Jerry continued his studies on N-glycosylation as a junior professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, firmly established the concept of site-specific oligosaccharide microheterogeneity, and demonstrated this is a non-random process that fine-tunes glycoprotein functions. At the same time, Jerry was working with Paul Englund’s group to elucidate the pathway for GPI-anchor biosynthesis. It was actually Jerry’s labs studies of complex glycosylation on the surface of intact cells in culture that led to the discovery of the O-GlcNAc modification of nuclear and cytoplasmic proteins.

Since his discovery of glycosylation inside the cell, but outside the secretory system, Jerry has continued to lead the ever-growing O-GlcNAc field for the last 30 years. Beyond establishing the existence of the O-GlcNAc modification on literally thousands of proteins, his laboratory has purified, characterized, and cloned the cycling enzymes, developed many of the tools in the field, and first proposed the yin-yang relationship between O-GlcNAc and phosphorylation, as well as the metabolic sensor hypothesis. Work from Jerry’s lab was also key to establishing O-GlcNAc as part of the histone code and a metabolic regulator of gene expression via multiple mechanisms. More recently, Jerry’s lab has been the leader in exploring crosstalk between phosphorylation and O-GlcNAcylation, as well as examining the role of O-GlcNAc in diabetes and Alzheimer’s. While Jerry would never advocate defining a scientist by any number or set of numbers, he has an h-index of 117, an i10-index of 313, and his publications have been cited over 46,000 times.

In addition to his direct scientific contributions, Jerry has provided exemplary service to the glycobiology and life science community. He has trained and instilled the importance of excellence in research and service to a large number of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, including many that have gone on to become Professors, Chairs of Departments, and Members of the SFG. He was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Glycobiology, the leading journal in glycoscience, and is a past-president of the Society for Glycobiology and the International Glycoconjugate Organization, as well as a former Chair of the Glycobiology Gordon Conference. He is currently an Associate Editor for two ASBMB journals; J Biol Chem and Mol Cell Proteomics. Jerry served as the Department Head of Biological Chemistry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine for 21 years, won the Karl Meyer award, the highest Award given by the Society for Glycobiology, in 2006, and won the Herbert Tabor Research Award from ASBMB in 2018. He is currently the Georgia Research Alliance William Henry  Terry, Sr. Eminent  Scholar in Drug Discovery and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, University of Georgia. Finally, Jerry is the current President of the American Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. In short, Dr. Hart is the perfect selection for the 2019 SFG President’s Innovator Award.