Robert K. Naviaux, MD, PhD (Biosketch)
Dr. Naviaux is the founder and co-director of the Mitochondrial and Metabolic Disease Center (MMDC), and Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics, Pathology, and Genetics at UCSD. He directs a core laboratory for metabolomics at UCSD. He is the co-founder and a former president of the Mitochondrial Medicine Society (MMS), and a founding associate editor of the journal Mitochondrion. He is an internationally known expert in human genetics, inborn errors of metabolism, metabolomics, and mitochondrial medicine. He is the discoverer of the cause of Alpers syndrome---the oldest Mendelian form of mitochondrial disease---and the developer of the first DNA test to diagnose it. Dr. Naviaux's lab has developed a number of advanced technologies like biocavity laser spectroscopy and mtDNA mutation detection by mass spectrometry.
He is a Salk-trained virologist, and molecular and cell biologist, the inventor of the popular pCL retroviral gene transfer vectors, and was trained at NIH in tumor immunology and natural killer cell biology. He studied biochemistry at Georg-August University in Göttingen, Germany. He has been the PI for over 20 IRB-approved human subjects protocols at UCSD since 1995. In 2010, Dr. Naviaux was a member of the Cal-Echoes oceanographic expedition to collect environmental and ecosystem data along the California coast. His work in ecosystem dynamics has guided new work in microbiome ecology and metabolism in autism spectrum disorders. In 2011, he received a Trailblazer Award from Autism Speaks. His 2013 paper reporting preclinical studies on the role of purinergic signaling and the cell danger response in autism was ranked the #1 most-viewed report of 2013 on the Simons Foundation autism web site. He is currently the director of the first FDA-approved clinical trial to study the safety and test the effects of suramin on behavior and language in children with autism.