Robert Linhardt, the Ann and John H. Broadbent Jr. ’59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering, has been selected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Linhardt is one of 531 newly selected fellows recognized for their efforts to advance science or its applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished, according to AAAS.
The AAAS cited Linhardt for “distinguished contributions to pharmaceutical chemistry, particularly for research on the structure, activity, and synthesis of the anticoagulant drug heparin and related polysaccharides.” AAAS will honor the new fellows at its annual meeting on Feb. 20 in San Diego, Calif.
“Professor Linhardt’s work to develop a safer alternative to one of the most widely used drugs in American hospitals has made him a world-renowned leader in his field,” said President Shirley Ann Jackson, who also is a former president of AAAS. “He is an exceptional researcher as well as teacher and mentor. His tireless dedication to both his laboratory and his students makes him exceptionally deserving of this prestigious recognition, and we are proud to have him as a colleague at Rensselaer.”
Linhardt has helped to make the currently available heparin safer for patients, helping to discover a contaminant in the drug that made hundreds of patients ill in 2008. He is also leading the effort to create a safer, fully synthetic alternative to the current heparin, which is harvested from the intestines of livestock.
Linhardt and Jian Liu at the University of North Carolina discovered the “recipe” for synthetic heparin three years ago. In August 2008, at the national conference of the American Chemical Society, Linhardt announced that his team had constructed minuscule carbohydrates into a purer, safer alternative creating the first fully synthetic heparin and the largest amount ever created in the laboratory.
With Linhardt’s discovery, a fully synthetic heparin can be created in a pharmaceutical manufacturing environment, giving drug manufacturers extreme control over the safety and purity of the product. He believes that within five years, it is possible that this drug could reach human clinical trials.
Government agencies and numerous foundations and corporations have provided extensive funding for Linhardt’s research. An active contributor to professional publications, Linhardt has served on the editorial board of such top journals as the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, and the Journal of Carbohydrate Chemistry. He has published more than 450 research papers and holds 45 patents. In 2009, Linhardt was one of 10 people alongside U.S. President Barack Obama and business leader Bill Gates recognized by Scientific American for his “demonstrated outstanding commitment to assuring that the benefits of new technologies and knowledge will accrue to humanity.”
Linhardt joined Rensselaer in 2003 as a senior constellation professor. He earned a master’s and doctoral degrees in organic chemistry from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Marquette University.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science.
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