The David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MITThe David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

National Cancer Institute Cancer Center

Science + Engineering... Conquering Cancer Together

Ram Sasisekharan, PhD

Ram Sasisekharan

Alfred H. Caspary Professor of Biological Engineering & Health Sciences and Technology




KI Research Areas of Focus:
Personalized Medicine

"No cell is an island—our laboratory’s focus is understanding how cell function is regulated by the extracellular environment.  In particular, we study glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), the polysaccharide component of the extracellular matrix, which are believed to regulated biological processes including morphogenesis, angiogenesis and tumor growth. However, we hope that the novel approaches we  are developing to study molecular influences will be applicable to other components of the complex extracellular milieu. In addition, we are working to generate novel pharmacological approaches to modulate cell function for the treatment of diseases."

Dr. Sasisekharan has been a professor of Biological Engineering at MIT since 1996 and Alfred H. Caspary Professor of Biological Engineering & Health Sciences and Technology. He served as Director of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology from 2008 to 2012. His research on complex polysaccharides has led to over 125 publications and over 50 patents. He is a founder of Momenta Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: MNTA), Cerulean Pharma, and Visterra Pharmaceuticals. He has won both the Burroughs Wellcome and Beckman Foundation Young Investigator Awards; was the recipient of the 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001 CaPCure Awards from the CaPCure Foundation; was honored with the Princess Chulabhorn Gold Medal Award in 2007; and received a National Institutes of General Medical Sciences MERIT Award in 2010. He received his B.S. in Physical Sciences from Bangalore University, his M.S. in Biophysics from Harvard University, and his Ph.D. in Medical Sciences from Harvard Medical School.

Further Information

Research Summary

Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), the polysaccharide component of the extracellular matrix (ECM), are the most acidic naturally occurring biopolymers. These GAGs not only hydrate the ECM, but also solubilize several transient molecules, such as growth factors, cytokines, enzymes etc. that diffuse from the outside of a tissue to the cell surface to modulate cellular function. GAGs are believed to regulate important physiological as well as pathological processes, which include morphogenesis, angiogenesis and tumor growth. At the present time, due to a lack of powerful methods and tools, there is little information as to how GAGs modulate or regulate a given biological process.

Using GAGs as a model system, our vision is to focus and develop on the one hand, a programmatic approach to investigate important questions addressing the biological roles and significance of these complex molecules. On the other hand, this strategy is built with the idea of plausible technological applications in mind, which include the development of much desired novel and powerful tools and agents for both diagnostic as well as therapeutic needs for unmet medical conditions.

Honors and Awards

Princess Chulabhorn Gold Medal Award, 2007
Princess Chulabhorn Institute Distinguished Lecturer Award, 2005
Indus Technovator Award, 2004
CaPCure Foundation, CaPCure Award, 1999-2002
Beckman Foundation Young Investigator Award, 1999
Burroughs Wellcome Fund Young Investigator Award in Pharmacological Sciences, 1999
Edgerly Science Partnership Award, 1999
CaPCure Foundation, CaPCure Award, 1998
INLAKS FOUNDATION, London, England, 1985-1987

Selected Publications

Raman R, Raguram S, Venkataraman G, Paulson J, Sasisekharan R (2005) Glycomics: Integrated Systems Approach to Structure-Function Relationships of Glycans. 2005 Nature Methods; 2(11):817-824. View article

Sengupta S, Eavarone D, Capila I, Zhao G, Watson N, Kiziltepe T, Sasisekharan R. (2005) Temporal targeting of tumour cells and neovasculature with a nanoscale delivery system. Nature Jul 28;436(7050):568-72. View abstract

Shriver Z, Raguram S, Sasisekharan R (2004). Glycomics: a pathway to a class of new and improved therapeutics Nature Reviews. Drug Discovery 3, 863-873. View article (PDF)

Sasisekharan R, and Myette J (2003) The Sweet Science of Glycobiology. American Scientist. View article (PDF)

Sundaram M, Qi Y, Shriver Z, Liu D, Zhao G, Venkataraman G, Langer R, and Sasisekharan R (2003) Rational design of low molecular weight heparins with improved in vivo activity. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 100, 651-6.

Liu, D., Shriver, Z., Venkataraman, G., & Sasisekharan R., (2002) Inhibition of Tumor Growth and Metastasis through Enzymatic Degradation of Heparan sulfate-like Glycosaminoglycans. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 99, 568-73.

Editorial Commentary (2002): Six blind men and the elephant - The many faces of heparan sulfate. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 99, 543-5.

Sasisekharan, R., Shriver, Z., & Narayanasami U., (2002) Roles of Heparan sulphate Glycosaminoglycans in Tumorigenesis. Nature Reviews Cancer; 2, 521-8.

Shriver, Z., Raman, R., Venkataraman, G., Drummond, K., Turnbull, J., Toida., T., Linhardt, R., Biemann, K., & Sasisekharan, R (2000) Sequencing of 3-O Sulfate Containing Heparin Decasaccharides With a Partial Antithrombin III Binding Site, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 97(19):10359-10364.

Shriver, Z., Sundaram, M., Venkataraman, G., Fareed, J., Linhardt, R., Biemann, K., & Sasisekharan, R (2000) Cleavage of the Antithrombin III Binding Site in Heparin by Heparinases: Implication in the Generation of Low Molecular Weight Heparin, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 97(19):10365-10370.

Editorial commentary in PNAS: Heparin sequencing brings structure to the function of complex oligosaccharides. PNAS 2000 97: 10301-10303.

Keiser, N, Venkataraman, G., Shriver, Z., & Sasisekharan R., (2000) Direct isolation and sequencing of specific protein-binding glycosaminoglycans on a chip. Nature Medicine 7:123-128.

Sasisekharan, R & Venkataraman, G., (2000) Heparin and Heparan Sulfate: Biosynthesis, Structure and Function. Current Opinion in Chemical Biology, 4:6:626-631.

Venkataraman, G., Shriver, Z., Raman, R., & Sasisekharan, R. (1999) Sequencing Complex Polysaccharides. Science 286:537-542.

Binari, R.C., Staveley, B. E., Godavarti, R., Sasisekharan, R. & Manoukian, A.S. (1997) Genetic Evidence that Heparin-like Glycosaminoglycans are Required for wingless Signaling. Development 124, 2623-2632.

Ernst, S., Cooney, C. L., Langer, R. & Sasisekharan, R. (1995) Glycosaminoglycan Degrading Enzymes. Critical Reviews in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology 30, 387-444.

Complete list of publications

Contact Information

Ram Sasisekharan

room 76-461
phone (617) 258-9494
fax (617) 258-9409

Sasisekharan Lab

phone (617) 253-7666
fax (617) 258-9409

Administrative Assistant:

Ada Horlander
phone (617) 258-7282