Dr. Donald Kasarda was a teacher, a mentor, and a treasured member of the Celiac Disease Foundation Medical Advisory Board since the early 1990s, when he first befriended founder Elaine Monarch. Don was my sounding board on how gluten and other proteins affect people with celiac disease, responding patiently to far-ranging questions on how wheat may be genetically modified to be safe for people with celiac disease (he was skeptical) to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association request to know if grain-fed beef contains gluten (most unlikely). In response to a request on how to mitigate inhalation of flour in a workplace, Don engaged the FDA Safety Officer to provide me a deeply detailed description of how to fit a respirator, as well as the best types. That was Don, thoughtfully and thoroughly assuring that our celiac community had the right information, and taking pride in both the growth of the field of celiac disease and in the Celiac Disease Foundation’s accomplishments. In honor of the Foundation’s 25th Anniversary in 2015 he wrote:
As an early member of the Celiac Disease Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board, I have watched Elaine put together the premier organization in support of celiac patients in the U.S. Elaine had a vision of a registered foundation that would provide support to patients bolstered by careful interaction with celiac disease professionals. She also put considerable effort into the education of the medical profession to become more knowledgeable about celiac disease. She has succeeded in the highest degree and I am delighted to salute her on this occasion honoring her many major accomplishments.
Donald D. Kasarda, Ph.D., Research Chemist, US Department of Agriculture.
I would like to share the below from Tara McHugh, Center Director, USDA-ARS-WRRC, so that you may better know Don as we did. He will be truly missed. – Marilyn Geller
It is with great sadness that I share the passing of longtime WRRC research scientist and collaborator, Dr. Donald D. (Don) Kasarda, on February 12, 2021. Dr. Kasarda was a dedicated scientist for more than 50 years and a recognized expert in wheat gluten proteins and celiac disease. He will also be remembered as a gracious and kind person.
Dr. Kasarda received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Princeton University in 1961. Following appointments at Bell Laboratories and the University of California San Francisco, he joined the USDA-ARS Western Regional Research Center (WRRC) in 1964 to study wheat protein structure in relation to breadmaking quality. He served as Research Leader of the Food Proteins Research Unit from 1972 to 1985 and was responsible for establishing the wheat molecular biology program at WRRC. In addition, he was an Associate in the Experiment Station at the University of California Davis and collaborated extensively with faculty members and students from the Department of Plant Sciences. Over the years, he mentored visiting scientists from many other countries who came to his lab to study the genetic basis of wheat quality. He also collaborated with medical groups to define the basis for the activity of the wheat proteins in celiac disease and served on the Medical Advisory Board of the Celiac Disease Foundation and as an advisor to celiac patient support groups. Following his retirement in 1999, he continued on as a collaborator at WRRC and remained passionate about science, wheat gluten proteins and celiac disease.
Dr. Kasarda is the author of more than 100 research publications and review chapters and received numerous awards for excellence in research during his career. He was awarded the Thomas Burr Osbourne Medal for distinguished contributions in the field of Cereal Chemistry in 1993. In 2002, Dr. Kasarda, along with Dr. Peter Shewry of the UK, was honored with the Rank Prize in recognition of his work on the molecular characterization of cereal seed storage proteins.
Dr. Kasarda was predeceased by his wife Ferne. He is survived by his daughter, Amy Perrette, son-in-law, Jean-Briac (“JB”) Perrette and grandchildren, Ansel and Isabelle, currently residing in London. Condolences can be sent to Amy Perrette at [email protected]. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to the Celiac Disease Foundation in Dr. Kasarda’s memory: https://celiac.org/donate/.