James J. Pestka

James J. Pestka
  • Robert and Carol Deibel Family Endowed Professorship, University Distinguished Professor
  • Funded by Robert and Carol Deibel
  • Food Science and Human Nutrition
  • Microbiology and Molecular Genetics


James J. Pestka is the inaugural Robert and Carol Deibel Family Endowed Professor, and a University Distinguished Professor in the departments of Food Science and Human Nutrition and of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. He also conducts research with the Institute for Integrative Toxicology. His current research focuses on understanding how environmental toxicants trigger autoimmune diseases such as lupus and how consumption of lipids contained in fish oil can be exploited to prevent and intervene in triggering of autoimmunity. 

Pestka earned his BA in biology from State University of New York College of Buffalo, and his PhD in microbiology with minors in immunology and biochemistry from Cornell University. He completed postdoctoral work in environmental toxicology and food safety at University of Wisconsin, Madison, before joining the MSU faculty in 1982.

Pestka has led or contributed to numerous highly productive research collaborations as reflected in over 300 publications with coauthors from 18 units at Michigan State and 83 national and international labs.   His early research led to the founding of the Neogen Corporation Lansing which now has 1300 employees. Pestka and his co-investigators were recently awarded a $2.3 million National Institutes of Health grant to further their research into why DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is effective in stopping a known environmental trigger of lupus.