Ayaz Najafov, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor

Ayaz Najafov is an Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases. He holds a secondary appointment at the Children's Research Institute (CRI). He is affiliated with the Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center. At the UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, he is a faculty member of the Cell & Molecular Biology Graduate Program and the Cancer Biology Graduate Program.

A Biochemist and Cell and Molecular Biologist by training, he received his PhD from the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit at the University of Dundee, Scotland, UK, and his postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.

Najafov Lab was established at UT Southwestern Medical Center in 2021.

Education and Training

Postdoctoral Training, Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
Mentor: Professor Junying Yuan
• Identified a novel role of RIPK1 in glucose sensing by the AMPK-mTORC1 pathway.
• Delineated a molecular mechanism contributing to neonatal lethality of RIPK1-null mice.
• Identified the TAM kinases as the first oncogenes required for necroptosis.
• Discovered BRAF and AXL as the first drivers of cancer escape from necroptosis.
• Independently, developed and published two omics data analysis software.
• Published 11 collaboration papers on the molecular regulation of necroptosis and autophagy.

PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit, University of Dundee, Scotland, UK
Mentor: Professor Dario Alessi
• Discovered that Akt phosphorylation by mTOR is key for its activation by PDK1.
• Characterized the first specific PDK1 inhibitor and identified a mechanism of cancer cell resistance to PDK1 inhibitors.
• Performed SILAC phospho-proteomics screens and identified KIAA0802 as a novel target of the LKB1-MARK signaling pathway.
• Independently, developed mass spectrometry data analysis software, which resulted in a PI-level award.

MSc in Molecular Biology and Genetics, Bosphorus University, Istanbul, Turkey, and Harvard Medical School
Mentors: Professor Ahmet Koman, Asst. Professor Necla Birgul-Iyison, Professor Xi He
• Identified MENA, BRI, and HSF2 as novel transcriptional targets of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway.

Internship, Baylor College of Medicine
Mentor: Professor Henry Epstein
• Discovered that C. elegans muscle myosin is a target of 26S proteasome.
• Developed FRET-based quantitative methods for the analysis of myosin folding by chaperones Hsp90 and UNC-45.

BSc in Molecular Biology and Genetics, Bosphorus University, Istanbul, Turkey
Mentors: Professor Esra Battaloglu, Dr. Ibrahim Baris
• Identified novel GDAP1 mutations in Charcot-Marie-Tooth hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy patients.


See all publications in PubMed
See all publications in Google Scholar

Awards and Honors

Science Signaling Editor’s Choice (Najafov et al., 2019, Mol Cell)
• Selection of work by the Faculty of 1000 (Amin et al., 2018, PNAS)
• Selection of work by the Faculty of 1000 (Geng et al., 2018, Nat Commun)
• Innovator of the Year Award, University of Dundee, Scotland, UK
• Selection of work by the Faculty of 1000 (Najafov et al., 2012, Biochem J)
• Discovery PhD Scholarship, University of Dundee, Scotland, UK
• Graduated with M.Sc. High Honors (Summa Cum Laude)
• Best Poster, EMBO Young Scientist Forum
• Selection of work by the Faculty of 1000 (Landsverk et al., 2017, J Cell Biol)
• Graduated with B.Sc. Honors (Magna Cum Laude)
• Bronze Medal, 11th International Biology Olympiad
• Bronze Medal, National Biology Olympiad, Azerbaijan
• Gold Medal, Regional Biology Olympiad, Azerbaijan


2023: Translational Pilot Grant - $100,000, Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, UT Southwestern Medical Center
2022: R35GM146861 - $2.05M, R35 MIRA grant, National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), NIH
2021: Lab start-up funds - $1M, Department of Internal Medicine, UT Southwestern Medical Center

Professional Memberships

2019 – Present: American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
2017 – Present: American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
2015 – Present: American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB)

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