World-Renowned Scientist and Stony Brook Professor Named to National Academy of Sciences
Dr. Eckard Wimmer, recognized for groundbreaking work on the
poliovirus, joins elite society
STONY BROOK, N.Y., May 7, 2012 – Eckard Wimmer, Ph.D., Distinguished University
Professor, Department of
Molecular Genetics & Microbiology, Stony Brook University School of
Medicine, and internationally recognized for his poliovirus research, has been
named to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
Dr. Wimmer was elected an NAS member in recognition of his distinguished and
continuing achievements in original research. The NAS announced the election of
84 new members on May 1.
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. The NAS advises the U.S. government on the scientific
and technological issues that affect policy decisions.
“Stony Brook University is fortunate, and indeed proud to have such an esteemed
and world renowned scientist-educator as Eckard Wimmer on our faculty,” said
Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “Since coming to
Stony Brook nearly 40 years ago, Eckard's work has been internationally
acknowledged for its significance. Election to the NAS can be viewed as a
pinnacle in terms of recognition for his groundbreaking achievements and we
A faculty member at Stony Brook since 1974 and Chair of the Department of
Molecular Genetics and Microbiology between 1984 and 1999, Dr. Wimmer has
worked for decades predominantly on poliovirus. He is internationally known for
this work, which includes the elucidation of the chemical structure of the
poliovirus genome in the late 1970s and subsequent discoveries based on the
mechanisms of poliovirus pathogenesis and the human receptor for poliovirus.
These landmark discoveries have served to stimulate international research in
virology and cell biology.
More specifically, Dr. Wimmer published the first de novo, cell-free synthesis
of a virus (poliovirus), which greatly stimulated molecular studies of viral
replication. This was capped in 2002 with the first chemical-biochemical
test-tube synthesis of any organism (again poliovirus) in the absence of a
natural template. This strategy has led to studies of the structure and
function of a virus to an extent not possible before.
“I am honored to be named to the National Academy of Sciences,” says Dr.
Wimmer. “I look forward to providing insight in an advisory capacity on
important issues and findings in the areas of microbiology and molecular
Trained as an Organic Chemist, Dr. Wimmer chose viruses as a subject for his
scientific inquiries because, he says, throughout his career he has been
intrigued by their dual nature as chemicals and self-replicating, pathogenic
entities, that is, as “chemicals with a life cycle.” This is apparent in many
of his nearly 300 research papers.
“Dr. Wimmer has been both pioneer and ongoing guiding light in our
understanding of how polio and other viruses cause human disease,” says Kenneth
Kaushansky, M.D, Senior Vice President for the Health Sciences and Dean, School
of Medicine. “His insights have revolutionized our approaches to creating novel
ways to address a myriad of diseases. Thus, it is entirely fitting that his
accomplishments be recognized in his election to the National Academy of
“Dr. Wimmer’s accomplishments, especially in the area of poliovirus genome
research, is nothing short of extraordinary,” says Jorge L. Benach, Ph.D.,
Distinguished University Professor, Chair of the Department of Molecular
Genetics & Microbiology, and Director, Center for Infectious Diseases,
Stony Brook University. “The department has benefited from his expertise and
experience as a researcher, educator, and mentor to junior faculty.”
The 2012 NAS membership election brings total NAS membership to 2,152, with an
additional 430 foreign associates, of whom approximately 200 have received
Dr. Wimmer is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science. His other honors include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the
Research Foundation of the State University of New York (2008); Fellow,
Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften Leopoldina von 1652 (1998); Fellow,
American Academy for Microbiology (1994), and two Merit Awards from the
National Institutes of Health (1988, 1998). In 2010, Dr. Wimmer received the
Beijerinck Prize in Virology from The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and
Editor’s note: Dr. Wimmer lives in Setauket, N.Y., with his wife, Dr. Astrid
Dr. Eckard Wimmer, a world-renowned scientist and Distinguished University
Professor in the School of Medicine, has been named a member of the National
Academy of Sciences.