Richa Saxena, PhD is an Associate Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, and an Investigator in the Center for Genomic Medicine and Department of Anesthesia at Mass General Hospital. She is also an Associate Member at the Broad Institute and an Affiliate of the Harvard Division of Sleep Medicine. Dr. Saxena received her BA in Biology and Chemistry from Cornell University and her PhD in Biology from MIT in 2000. After co-founding a clinical genomics company in India, she pursued her postdoctoral training at Harvard in David Altshuler’s lab in the genetics of type 2 diabetes.
In 2010, she started her independent research lab at Mass General, and received a Mass General Claflin Distinguished Scholar Award. Dr. Saxena’s research has focused on finding genes and biological mechanisms underlying daily rhythms of behavior and sleep disorders, and how the biological clock and sleep protect or confer risk to chronic disease. Her team leads collaborative research that has found genetic differences between night owls or larks, and differences that contribute to sleep disorders such as insomnia and daytime sleepiness. Dr. Saxena’s team is exploring mechanisms underlying new discoveries that circadian rhythm and sleep disorders share genes and pathways with cardiovascular, metabolic and psychiatric diseases and that insomnia is a causal risk factor for depression and coronary artery disease. The lab is also investigating multiple genetic, biological and behavioral links with early neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease that are known to exhibit disruption in sleep patterns. The overall aim of her research is to identify new therapies for sleep disorders, and to define specific disease mechanisms where targeted interventions for sleep or circadian rhythms could be used to prevent, delay or manage related human disease.