Alan Saltiel Lab

Dr. Alan R Saltiel

Principal Investigator

Alan R. Saltiel is Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology, Maryam Ahmadian Endowed Chair in Metabolic Health, Director of the Institute for Diabetes and Metabolic Health at UC, San Diego, and Director of the UCSD/UCLA Diabetes Research Center. He received his AB in Zoology from Duke University in 1975 with Magna Cum Laude distinction, and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of North Carolina in 1980. From 1981-1984 he did postdoctoral training with Pedro Cuatrecasas at the Wellcome Research Laboratories in Research Triangle Park, NC, studying mechanisms of insulin action. In 1984 he moved to the Rockefeller University as Assistant Professor, continuing work on the molecular and cellular biology of insulin action. In 1990 he joined Parke Davis Pharmaceutical Research as Distinguished Research Fellow and Senior Director/Vice President of Cell Biology, and directed drug discovery activities in diabetes, obesity and cancer. He was responsible for preclinical studies on troglitazone, the first thiazolidinedione approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. He also developed the first MEK inhibitors for the treatment of cancer-the first received FDA approval for melanoma and other cancers. In 2001, Dr. Saltiel moved to the newly created Life Sciences Institute of the University of Michigan and was named founding Director of the Institute, and John Jacob Abel Professor in the Life Sciences. In 2015 he moved to the University of California, San Diego to create the Institute for Diabetes and Metabolic Health; he directs the Institute as well as the UCSD/UCLA Diabetes Research Center.


Dr. Saltiel’s primary contributions concern the specificity of receptor signaling events governing metabolism and cellular growth, and the means by which energy expenditure is controlled in states of caloric overload and restriction. He uncovered a new pathway critical to the stimulation of glucose uptake by insulin, including the cloning of new adapter proteins, the identification of protein interaction domains that ensure the localization of signaling or cytoskeletal proteins, and the understanding of complex crosstalk among signaling networks. He elucidated how insulin controls dephosphorylation in specialized cellular compartments, by cloning the first “molecular scaffolding” proteins. His focus on glycogen metabolism revealed a new signaling role for this interesting molecule in both fat and liver cells. His laboratory also studied the relationship between obesity and insulin resistance, uncovering an unexpected role of the innate immune system as a molecular link between these two states. He has published over 325 papers and holds 19 issued patents. He has an H factor of 115, with over 70,000 citations.


Dr. Saltiel has received numerous awards, including the Rosalyn Yalow Research and Development Award from the American Diabetes Association, and the Hirschl Award. He won the John Jacob Abel, Goodman and Gilman and Pharmacia-ASPET Awards from the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, and was named a Fellow in 2022. He was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and elected to membership in the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the National Academy of Medicine. He has given many named lectures, organized numerous meetings and conferences, and served on a number of advisory panels, scientific and editorial boards, including the Advisory Council of NIDDK. 


In addition to ground-breaking research accomplishments, Saltiel is an inspirational leader, mentoring many students, fellows and junior faculty, including over a hundred students and fellows in his laboratory. As the founding Director of the Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan he created a dynamic environment that encouraged young scientists to collaboratively focus on important problems in human health. As the founding Director of the UCSD Institute for Diabetes and Metabolic Health and the UCSD/UCLA Diabetes Research Center he unites scientists to collaborate in metabolic disease, and oversees a fellowship program for undergraduate students in metabolic research at UCSD.

Lab members:

Yuliya Skorobogatko, PhD

Assistant Adjunct Professor

Bichen Zhang, PhD


Wenmin Xia, PhD


Haipeng Fu, PhD


Xue Feng, PhD


Seung Hwan (Danny) Son, PhD


Churaibhon (Fai) Wisessauwapak, PhD



Elizabeth Murray

Lab assistants:

Preethi Veeragandham

Julie Resnick

Undergraduate researchers:

Farid Rezayat

Cindy Xu

Twisha Kurlagunda

Timothy Yuan

Jose Aguilar

Liana Melikian

Catherine Dinh

Alyssa Truong

Yuyao (Rebecca) Ren

Yunqing (Lucy) Wang

Sophia Zarcone

Yu (Ericsson) Cao

James Garza

Jinyang Zhang

Andrew Nance


In Memorium

Maryam Ahmadian, PhD 1982-2020

 We remember our colleague Maryam, an outstanding scientist and friend. She graduated from UCSD in 2004 with a B.S. in Biochemistry as a Regents Scholar. After discovering a passion for research while working in a laboratory as an undergraduate, she attended graduate school at UC, Berkeley, receiving her Ph.D. in 2010 in Metabolic Biology. Working under the supervision of Professor Hei Sook Sul, she made seminal contributions to our understanding of how fat cells are regulated, publishing several ground-breaking studies in the highest impact journals. In 2011 she joined the laboratory of Ron Evans at the Salk Institute, and continued to excel in studying the basic aspects of fat cell biology, and explaining how living organisms respond to cold stress. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in 2014, but nevertheless made outstanding progress and published several papers in top international journals, a testament to her determination and commitment as a scientist. In 2017 she joined our lab as an Assistant Professor. Maryam led a dedicated group of students and postdoctoral fellows, continuing to study the underlying basis of obesity and type 2 diabetes. During her short career, Maryam won numerous awards and fellowships, and traveled throughout the world to present her work at scientific conferences. As an outstanding scientist, excellent collaborator, wonderful teacher and thought leader in the field, she was well on her way to developing an international reputation as a rising young investigator.