National Academy of Sciences elects two Rochester faculty members

Apr. 30, 2010

Porter W. Anderson, Ph.D., University of Rochester Medical Center professor emeritus of pediatrics, has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors a scientist can receive.

Anderson and Richard Eisenberg, the Tracy H. Harris Professor of Chemistry at the University of Rochester, are among 72 new members and 18 foreign associates from 14 countries elected this week in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. It was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation that calls on the academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

Anderson, currently a senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School, was on the Medical Center faculty from 1977 to 1994. He is one of three Medical Center scientists who developed the Haemophilus influenza b (Hib) vaccine, which has virtually eradicated a leading cause of meningitis in preschoolers. The three Rochester pediatric researchers—the late David Smith, M.D., Richard Insel, M.D., and Anderson—were among the first to develop and test a conjugate vaccine, a method to make a vaccine more effective by linking it to a protein that incites a more powerful immune system response to fight an infection.

The team first used the technology to tackle bacteria known as Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib). Smith eventually founded a company called Praxis to develop a vaccine. The Hib vaccine was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration in 1990, then the first vaccine in 20 years to be recommended by the FDA for universal use in children. It has virtually wiped out infection by Hib bacteria, which was a leading cause of meningitis in children under the age of 5. Another vaccine based on the technology, Prevnar, was introduced in 2000. It prevents invasive infections by pneumococcal bacteria, which cause meningitis, ear infections, pneumonia, and other diseases.

Anderson and Smith received the prestigious Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award in 1996.

Eisenberg's research has focused on inorganic and organometallic chemistry, photochemistry, and catalysis. He is a specialist in the chemistry of converting light into chemical energy. He has developed a system that could lead to more efficient and environmentally friendly production of hydrogen fuel from water.

Eisenberg joined the Rochester faculty in 1973. He was chair of the Department of Chemistry from 1991 to 1994. In an upcoming ceremony on May 15, he will receive the University of Rochester's Lifetime Achievement Award in Graduate Education.

Eisenberg is the editor-in-chief of Inorganic Chemistry, the leading journal in its field. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society, as well as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.