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SBU Scientist Recognized Worldwide For Lyme Disease Research Named To Largest International Science Association


SBU Scientist Recognized Worldwide For Lyme Disease Research Named To Largest International Science Association

Dr. Jorge Benach Discoverer of Organism Causing Lyme Disease Named AAAS Fellow

2010 AAAS Fellow, Jorge Benach (photo credit: John Griffin)

STONY BROOK, N.Y., January 19, 2011 – Jorge Benach, Ph.D., SUNY Distinguished Professor, Chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, and Director, Center for Infectious Diseases, Stony Brook University, has been named a 2010 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Dr. Benach joins leading scientists worldwide as a Fellow in the Medical Sciences Section. He and other new fellows will be honored on February 19 at the 2011 AAAS annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

The election of an AAAS fellow is awarded to individuals by their AAAS peer members. The nomination process starts with a steering group from the particular AAAS section a person is part of, and each steering group’s recommendations are then voted on by the AAS Council, the policymaking body of the association. This year the AAAS Council elected 503 fellows based on their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

Selected AAAS fellow because of his outstanding contributions to the field of infectious diseases and commitment to the national research agenda, Dr. Benach has been a researcher and educator at Stony Brook University for more than 30 years. In 1984, Dr. Benach brought recognition to the University and School of Medicine when he made the landmark discovery of the organism, Borrelia burgdorferi, that causes Lyme Disease. 

In 2000, Dr. Benach established the CID at Stony Brook University. Basic scientists through the CID collaborate with clinicians to carry out epidemiological and clinical studies that may speed up the time it takes for research discoveries to evolve into new therapeutics and diagnostics. For seven years, the CID has received major funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A 2009 grant renewal, part of the NIH’s “Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Disease Research Opportunity” Program, will total $23 million by 2012.

“Dr. Benach’s drive and vision to develop a first-rate educational and research program at Stony Brook investigating emerging pathogens, with collaborators in the School of Medicine and University, has led to remarkable cutting-edge research in the field of infectious diseases,” says Kenneth Kaushansky, M.D., Senior Vice President of the Health Sciences and Dean, School of Medicine. “Dr. Benach being elected an AAAS fellow is a distinction that is well-deserved.”

Dr. Benach’s career has focused on the area of vector-borne diseases, particularly in the area of spirochetal infections. At Stony Brook, he and colleagues have conducted extensive research regarding how microbes cause disease and how the body fights off infection, largely through interdisciplinary investigations in the Center for Infectious Diseases (CID) and the Centers for Molecular Medicine.

A past Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Benach has served as a member of the Advisory Council of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 1997 to 2001. He presently holds a Merit Research Award from the NIH. Dr. Benach also chairs the scientific and advisory board of the Tick-Borne Disease Institute of the New York State Department of Health and a committee member of the National Research Fund for Tick-Borne Diseases.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the world’s largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, 
 as well as 
Science Translational Medicine
Science Signaling
. AAAS was founded in 1848, and includes 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

Part of the State University of New York system, Stony Brook University encompasses 200 buildings on 1,450 acres. In the 53 years since its founding, the University has grown tremendously, now with nearly 24,700 students and 2,200 faculty and is recognized as one of the nation’s important centers of learning and scholarship. It is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, and ranks among the top 100 national universities in America and among the top 50 public national universities in the country according to the 2010 U.S. News & World Report survey. One of the four University Centers in the SUNY system, Stony Brook University co-manages Brookhaven National Laboratory, joining an elite group of universities, including Berkeley, University of Chicago, Cornell, MIT, and Princeton that run federal research and development laboratories. SBU is a driving force of the Long Island economy, with an annual economic impact of $4.65 billion, generating nearly 60,000 jobs, and accounts for nearly 4% of all economic activity in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and roughly 7.5 percent of total jobs in Suffolk County.

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