Society for Glycobiology Distinguished Service Award  

The Society for Glycobiology Distinguished Service Award was established in 2021 and is presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society. 

2023 Awardee - Dr. Rita Sarkar

In 2021, the SFG Board of Directors established the Distinguished Service Award, which is intended for individuals with a sustained record of distinguished service to the Society for Glycobiology and/or the glycobiology community. Now, it is with great pleasure that the Board has selected Dr. Rita Sarkar as the recipient of the 2023 SFG Distinguished Service Award.

Dr. Sarkar was nominated for this Award by all current and past editors of Essentials of Glycobiology in recognition of her sustained record of distinguished service to the glycobiology community and the positive impact of her service for many Society for Glycobiology members.

Prior to her recruitment to the NHLBI Division of Blood Diseases and Resources in 2005, Dr. Sarkar had intense training in biochemical genetics and DNA diagnostics at the University of London and Oxford, UK (1980-1987), followed by a highly productive academic career at Yale (1990-1993), Johns Hopkins (1993-1994), and the University of Pennsylvania (1994-2004). In these positions, Dr. Sarkar studied developmental regulation of gene expression, characterized a hemophilia A knock-out mouse that simulated the human condition, developed cDNAs encoding mouse and canine factor VIII for gene transfer, and generated monoclonal antibodies against these targets for protein expression studies. Many of these tools became indispensable to investigators pursuing research in hemophilia gene therapy at both academic institutions and biotech companies worldwide.

The nomination for the SFG Distinguished Service Award focused on Dr. Sarkar's time at NIH from 2005 up to her recent retirement in 2022. Upon joining NHLBI, Dr. Sarkar played a pivotal role in identifying and implementing cutting edge initiatives in Glycobiology within and across the Institute’s programs, showing exceptional skills in leadership, organization, planning, coordinating, negotiating, and writing. Dr. Sarkar has also been an inspiring mentor to many new investigators across the country who sought her guidance, expertise and counsel, all of whom have greatly benefited from her conscientious and dedicated attention as they grow in their careers. 

The NIH has honored Dr. Sarkar with multiple awards, including:
• NHLBI Outstanding Award for initiating “Blood and Vascular Systems Response to Sepsis” 2015.
• NHLBI Recognition of Exceptional Service to “Programs to Increase Diversity Among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research” Program 2013.
• NHLBI Merit Award for Exceptional Team Work & Leadership for Management & Leadership of “Programs of Excellence in Glycosciences” 2012.
• National Institute of Health Award of Merit for Exceptional Leadership to create “Gene Therapy Resource Program” 2010.
• National Institute of Health Award of Merit for Outstanding Initiative to Create “Programs of Excellence in Glycosciences” 2010.
• NHLBI Star Award for Excellence in Training and Mentoring Programs, 2010.
• NHLBI Star Award for Excellence in Extramural Research, 2010.
• NHLBI Award for Leadership, Establishment & Management of “Gene Therapy Resource Program”, 2010.
• NHLBI Award for Outstanding Initiative to create “Program of Excellence in Glycosciences”, 2010.
• NHLBI Star Award for Excellence in Mentoring, 2009.
• NHLBI Special Recognition Award for Pathway to Independence, 2006.

At the national level, Dr. Sarkar organized or facilitated prominent working group and expert reports (e.g., Varki et al. 2008; Agre et al. 2016). These and other efforts resulted in many national program projects and multi-center grants, including the Programs of Excellence in Glycosciences (2012–2019) and the Program for Career Development in Glycosciences (K12) (2019-2024). A much less known impact of Dr.Sarkar's contributions has been critical long-term support of the Essentials of Glycobiology textbook. The Consortium of Glycobiology Editors has never had any independent funding to produce the four editions of Essentials; instead, this effort was piggybacked onto NHBLI funding for a UCSD program project, then the National Administrative units of the PEG and K12 Programs of Excellence in Glycosciences (PEG), and finally on the Program for Career Development in Glycosciences (K12). All NHLBI support for these programs (and hence for the book) was spearheaded by Dr. Sarkar, without whose dedication and relentless support none of this would have happened. Dr. Sarkar also co-authored the Foreword to the 4th  Edition. Last, but not least, Dr.Sarkar has never sought attention for all these achievements, a form of humility which is now vanishingly rare.