Featured Alumni

Dr. Alejandro Alex Zaffaroni

One of the most distinguished graduates from the University of Rochester is Dr. Alejandro Alex Zaffaroni, who earned his PhD in 1949 from the Department of Biochemistry, and completed his NIH Fellowship (FLW) here in 1951. When people use the patch or the Pill or if they use any controlled-release medications, they are using innovations that Dr. Zaffaroni invented or helped create.

Dr. Zaffaroni attended the University of Rochester on a Fulbright Scholarship, where he invented a paper chromatography technique to separate and track steroids – a technique that became widely used in the synthesis of steroids. This work uniquely prepared him in 1951 to join a Mexican company named Syntex, which had recently succeeded in synthesizing the steroid cortisone. Dr. Zaffaroni’s focus at Syntex was extracting the plant steroid diosgenin from Mexican yams for conversion into human steroid hormones. Not only was he successful in this endeavor, but he dramatically improved the process for collecting the raw materials. As Dr. Arthur Kornberg(M.D.,1941, University of Rochester) reflected in his book The Golden Helix, Alex had recruited local laborers and imbued them with the team spirit to advance the technology by their efforts. By applying the scientific insights acquired in his graduate research at Rochester, he had made a real impact on a practical problem. read full article

We note with sadness that Dr. Zaffaroni passed away on March 1 in Atherton, California. Please see this article for details.