Donald Kasarda

We are saddened to learn of the death of Dr. Donald Kasarda, a past winner of the Rank Prize in Nutrition. Former Chair of the Nutrition Committee, Peter Shewry, has written the following appreciation:

Don Rank Prize 002

Donald Kasarda, recipient of the Rank Prize for Nutrition in 2002, has died aged 87. Don was born in Pennsylvania and completed his PhD in physical chemistry. After relocating to California he joined the Western Regional Research Centre (WRRC) of the USDA (located in Albany, Ca). This was one of four centres established to improve the utilisation of agricultural products and Don joined a group working on the structure and properties of wheat gluten proteins. He would subsequently lead this group for over 20 years and continue to collaborate with colleagues after his retirement.

Don made major contributions to our knowledge of wheat gluten proteins in several respects. Firstly, he introduced modern physical chemical approaches to elucidate their structures in relation to their physical properties. However, he soon became interested in the role of gluten proteins in activating coeliac disease, which led to collaborations with leading clinicians and a focus on identifying the protein motifs responsible for the activity. This required the development of protein sequencing and the establishment of a complementary group working on the molecular cloning and genomics of wheat gluten proteins: both among the earliest programmes in their field. Finally, Don’s studies of the comparative structures and sequences of gluten proteins and related proteins from other species have underpinned our understanding of how these proteins have evolved.

Don also had an important impact on cereal research by training and mentoring the career development of young scientists. In fact, his laboratory became a magnet for visiting scientists, particularly from Europe, many of whom subsequently made substantial scientific contributions.

Finally, Don will be remembered by his many friends and colleagues for his kindness and generosity, particularly to the overseas scientists and their families who he hosted. This was also reflected in his scientific life: although he was highly critical in his approach and his questioning could be incisive, his comments were invariably positive and constructive. Hence he was held in high regard by the research community.

Peter Shewry