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Eckard Wimmer Named to National Academy of Sciences

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Eckard Wimmer

Distinguished Professor Eckard Wimmer from the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, also an internationally recognized virologist, has been named to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

The NAS, created by an act of Congress in 1863, is a private, non-profit society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the public good. It advises the U.S. government on the scientific and technological issues that frequently affect policy decisions.

Wimmer is internationally known for his vast work for decades on the poliovirus, which included the elucidation of the chemical structure of the poliovirus genome in the late 1970s. This discovery and subsequent ones focusing primarily on poliovirus have been landmark achievements and have served to stimulate international research in virology and cell biology.

Wimmer’s other major discoveries include publishing (1991) the first de novo, cell-free synthesis of a virus (poliovirus), which greatly stimulated studies of viral application in general. After that he co-discovered the poliovirus receptor CD155, a cell-adhesion molecule and tumor antigen that suggests a new mechanism in poliovirus pathogenesis. This research led to Wimmer and colleagues making worldwide news in 2002, as they were the first to synthesize in the test tube a virus (poliovirus) in absence of the natural template. This discovery led to studying the structure and function of a virus to an extent not possible before.

Other honors received by Wimmer include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Research Foundation of the State University of New York (2008); Fellow, Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina von 1652 (1998); Fellow, American Academy for Microbiology (1994); and two Merit Awards from the National Institutes of Health (1988, 1998).

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