Skip to main content
Explore URMC


Robert H. Notter, M.D., Ph.D.

Contact Information

Phone Numbers

Administrative: (585) 275-5948

Office: (585) 275-5948

Fax: (585) 756-7780

Research Labs

Lab: (585) 275-4929

Visit Lab Website

Faculty Appointments


Dr. Notter's main area of research focuses on pulmonary surfactant, a substance in the lungs of humans and other air-breathing organisms that is essential for normal respiration. His clinical interests emphasize severe pulmonary diseases where lung surfactant is deficient or becomes dysfunctional. These diseases include the respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) of premature infants, plus the lethal and widespread syndromes of clinical acute lung injury (ALI) and the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) that can affect patients of all ages ranging from infants to adults. A major component of research is on the development and optimization of lung surfactant-based therapies for RDS, ALI, and ARDS. Research from Dr. Notter's laboratory over the past three decades has helped to establish clinically-effective surfactant replacement therapy for RDS in premature infants, and this is now being extended to patients with surfactant dysfunction and ALI/ARDS through the development of novel synthetic exogenous lung surfactants.

Key Words:
Development of Surfactant-based Therapies for Lung Disease and Injury in Infants,
Children, and Adults
Molecular Biophysics of Phospholipids and Proteins
Biomedical Engineering

Professional Background

Robert H. Notter, M.D. (1980, with distinction in research, University of Rochester)
Ph.D. (1969, Chemical Engineering, University of Washington)
M.S. (1965, Chemical Engineering, Stanford University)
B.S. (1964, Chemical Engineering, Stanford University)

Professor of Pediatrics and Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester (1989-present)

Past positions:
Professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Rochester (1983-2003)
Professor of Biomedical Engineering, University of Rochester (2001-2004)
Director of Research, Division of Neonatology, University of Rochester (1990-2000) Director of University-wide Program in Biomedical Engineering, University of Rochester (1984-1995)

Research awards:
*Health Leadership Award in Research, March of Dimes (2005)
*Two time principal investigator and program director for National Institutes of Health (NIH) Special Center of Research (SCOR) in Lung Biology and Disease in Infants and Children at Rochester (1989-1997)
*Research Career Development Award, National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute (NHLBI) of NIH (1981-1986)
*Principal investigator of multiple individual NIH RO1 research grants on lung surfactant activity, inhibition and replacement (1980-present)
*NIH young investigator award, NHLBI (1975-1976)
*NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship award in Bioengineering (1969-1971)
*American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) research award, Stanford University (1964)
*NSF undergraduate research award, Stanford University (1962)

Teaching awards: Outstanding Teacher in the College of Engineering, Penn State University (1976)

Other activities:
*Associate Editor, American Journal of Physiology: Lung Cellular and Molecular Biology (1997)
*Member of NIH Working Group on Lung Development (1992)
*Elected to Perinatal Research Society, Society for Pediatric Research, Sigma Xi, Tau Beta Pi
*Author of over 250 scientific papers and abstracts, plus the book Lung Surfactants: Basic Science and Clinical Applications (Marcel Dekker, 2000)
*Senior editor of Lung Injury: Mechanisms, Pathophysiology, and Therapy (Taylor Francis, 2005)
*Co-editor of Surfactant Replacement Therapy (Wiley Interscience, 1989)

Research interests:
Pulmonary surfactant; bioengineering; lung injury
Molecular Biophysics of Phospholipids and Proteins
Biomedical Engineering


Research in the Notter laboratory focuses on lung surfactant, a complex mixture of lipids and proteins that is essential for normal respiratory function. Lung surfactant deficiency in premature infants leads to the neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (NRDS), and surfactant dysfunction (inhibition, inactivation) is important in the pathology of clinical acute lung injury (ALI) and the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) that occur in patients of all ages. The prevalent and lethal syndromes of ALI/ARDS can result from direct pulmonary insults like viral or bacterial pneumonia, gastric or meconium aspiration, lung contusion, hyperoxia, lung transplant, or radiation pneumonitis or from indirect extra-pulmonary causes like sepsis, shock, burn injury, long bone fracture, pancreatitis, or bone marrow transplant. A major focus of our on-going NIH-funded multi-university collaborative research is on developing new highly-active synthetic exogenous surfactants for treating NRDS and direct pulmonary forms of ALI/ARDS. This includes basic and translational NIH Bioengineering Research Partnership (BRP) studies on the molecular design and biophysics of novel amphipathic peptides having structural homology to active surfactant proteins (SP) like SP-B, and the surface and pulmonary activity of synthetic surfactants containing these peptides combined with novel phospholipase-resistant lipids or synthetic biologic lipids. Also studied is the use of exogenous surfactants not just to reverse surfactant dysfunction in ALI/ARDS, but also to deliver added pharmacologic agents or exogenous DNA to concurrently target other aspects of the complex pathology of ALI/ARDS (edema, vascular dysfunction, inflammation). Our research at Rochester over the past three decades helped to develop clinically-significant first-generation surfactant therapy for premature infants with animal-derived drugs, and this is now being extended using sophisticated bioengineering principles to define new fully-synthetic lung surfactants for treating NRDS and direct pulmonary forms of ALI/ARDS.



BS | Stanford University
Chemical Engineering

MS | Stanford University
Chemical Engineering

PhD | University of Washington
Chemical Engineering

MD | University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Post-doctoral Training & Residency

1969 - 1971
Bioengineering Postdoctoral Fellowship, NIH (NHLBI), University of Washington, Seattle, WA


Health Leadership Award in Research
Sponsor: March of Dimes

1989 - 1997
Two time NIH Pulmonary SCOR Director (NHLBI)

Elected to Perinatal Research Society

1981 - 1986
Research Career Development Award, National Lung Institute

1980 - 2005
Above the 95th percentile for total NIH research funding over the 25 year period 1980 - 2005.

Dinstinction in MD Research, University of Rochester School of Medicine

1975 - 1977
NIH Young Investigator (National Lung Institute)

1975 - 1976
Outstanding Teacher in College of Engineering, Penn State University, PA

Outstanding Senior Chemical Engineer, Stanford University

American Society for Testing Materials Award, Stanford University

1962 - 1963
NSF Undergarduate Research Award, Stanford University

VIEW ALL expand_more


Title: Novel SP-B and SP-C Peptides, Synthetic Lung Surfactants, and Use Thereof
U.S. Serial #: 14/376,726
Filed: Feb 11, 2013
Invented By: Larry Gordon, Robert Notter, Adrian Schwan, Frans Walther, Zhengdong Wang, Alan Waring


Journal Articles

Willson, D; Egan, EA; Notter, RH. "Exogenous surfactant in the pediatric patient." Pediatric and Neonatal Mechanical Ventilation, Rimensberger PC (Ed.): Springer-Verlag. 2011; .

Raghavendran, KR; Willson, D; Notter, RH. "Surfactant therapy of ALI/ARDS." Crit Care Clin. 2011; .

Willson,D; Notter, RH. "New Horizons. The future of exogenous surfactant therapy." J Respir Care. 2011; .

Books & Chapters

Chapter Title: Informa Healthcare, pp. 1683-1694
Book Title: Encyclopedia of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, Vol. 3, 2nd Edition
Author List: Notter RH, Wang Z
Published By: Wnek GE, Bowlin GL (Eds) 2008

Chapter Title: Pulmonary surfactant: Biology and therapy
Book Title: Pediatric Critical Care Medicine: Basic Science and Clinical Evidence
Author List: Willson DF, Chess PR, Wang Z, Notter RH
Edited By: Wheeler DA, Wong HR, Shanley TA
Published By: Springer-Verlag 2007 in London, England

Chapter Title: Lung surfactant: An overview
Book Title: Encyclopedia of Respiratory Medicine
Author List: Notter RH, Wang Z, Chess PR
Edited By: Laurent GJ, Shapiro SD
Published By: Elsevier Publishers 2006 in Oxford, England