Jordi Merino, PhD, has pursued training in nutrition, metabolism, and genomics with the goal of understanding molecular mechanisms underlying the success or failure of therapeutic strategies for obesity and diabetes. He is motivated by the critical need of supplanting the outdated “one-size-fits-all” approach for obesity and diabetes prevention and care with more effective, tailored, and sustainable strategies.
As an undergraduate Nutrition major at Rovira i Virgili University (2005-2008), Dr. Merino became interested in preventive strategies to improve health, with particular interest in coronary artery disease. As a result, he pursued a Masters in Nutrition and Metabolism at Barcelona University (2008-2010) to understand biological mechanisms linking diet and metabolic homeostasis. Findings from his Master’s Project corroborated that close adherence to lifestyle recommendations improved endothelial dysfunction and delayed subclinical atherosclerosis progression.
Dr. Merino's commitment to common disease prevention had become evident, and he decided to pursue doctoral research in Nutrition and Atherosclerosis (2010-2013). As part of his doctoral thesis, under the mentorship of Prof. Luis Masana (Rovira i Virgili University), he had the privilege of participating in an European Union funded Scholars Program to develop strategies for obesity prevention (2012). During his PhD, he gained skills in lipid metabolism, atherosclerosis, statistics and epidemiology. His doctoral dissertation on the effect of lifestyle behaviors on endothelial function and subclinical atherosclerosis earned the top grade (Excellent cum laude) and led to the publication of seven first-author publications in top-ranked journals.
Upon completing his PhD, Dr. Merino approached his clinical training in Nutrition at Sant Joan Hospital (2013-2015) through the lens of a clinician-scientist, asking whether genetic knowledge could help discern the etiological heterogeneity of obesity and diabetes and improve the effectiveness of prevention and treatment strategies. This clinical experience stimulated his research interest in genomics, particularly on the value of identifying key metabolic features that allows to stratify patients to different therapeutic strategies.
Having decided to pursue a fellowship in Genomics, Dr. Merino joined to the laboratory of Dr. Florez (2015-2018) at the Center for Genomic Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, where exceptional cutting-edge genetic epidemiology methods are used to translate large-scale genetic discoveries into improved obesity and diabetes therapeutic strategies. As a Research Fellow, he completed advanced coursework in genomics, metabolomics, single-cell transcriptomics, biostatistics and computational biology. In 2016 he was awarded the Levine-Riggs Young Investigator Award for his work on the impact of genetically-driven hyperglycemia on the risk of coronary artery disease. In addition, he has been successful in supporting his postdoctoral training with continuous funding support from three highly competitive grants from different funding agencies.
After his postdoctoral training, Dr. Merino was promoted to Research Associate at Massachusetts General Hospital and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School (2018-present). He is now the PI of a recall-by-genotype study to better understand molecular mechanisms leading to higher food reward stimulation or impaired satiety perception with the support of a joint award from NORCH (Nutrition and Obesity Research Center in Harvard) and BADERC (Boston Area Diabetes Endocrinology Research Center). In addition, he is one of the recipients of the Funds for Medical Discovery, a highly competitive funding mechanism at Massachusetts General Hospital designed to conduct research on a problem of direct clinical relevance across all medical domains. This highly sought career award enables him to use innovative approaches to build polygenic scores for complex phenotypes and integrate them with high-dimensional environmental data.