November 5, 2007
Emory scientists named 2007 AAAS Fellows
By Holly Korschun
Emory vaccine scientist Harriet Robinson and Emory chemist Albert Padwa have been elected Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Election as a Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.
As part of the AAAS section on medical sciences, Robinson was elected for outstanding work on retrovirus biology and the development of DNA vaccines with special emphasis on HIV/AIDS vaccines. Robinson is chair of the Division of Microbiology and Immunology at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, a professor of microbiology and immunology in the School of Medicine and an investigator in the Emory Vaccine Center.
A vaccine strategy Robinson developed with colleagues at Yerkes, the Emory Vaccine Center, GeoVax Labs Inc., the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently is moving forward in human clinical trials through the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. Phase I trials are almost complete, and phase II testing is planned for 2008.
This innovative, two-step vaccine strategy uses a DNA vaccine priming approach as well as a weakened poxvirus to deliver the vaccinating HIV-1 proteins to stimulate an antibody response as well as a T-cell response against the HIV virus. A prototype for this vaccine successfully provided long-term protection against the development of AIDS in nonhuman primate studies conducted at Yerkes. The vaccine has been licensed to GeoVax, an Atlanta biotech company, for production and testing.
“Dr. Robinson is an exemplary scientist most deserving of this distinction,” said Stuart Zola, director of the Yerkes Research Center. “Her AIDS vaccine work is certain to have a life-changing effect on millions of people worldwide. In addition, she has been an invaluable mentor to junior scientists at Yerkes. Her long-standing leadership role in microbiology and immunology has enhanced this field of study and will continue to shape it for many years to come.”
As part of the AAAS section on chemistry, Padwa, William Patterson Timmie Professor of Organic Chemistry, was elected for distinguished contributions to advancement of heterocyclic chemistry and its applications to organic synthesis. His ongoing study of novel heterocyclic compounds is designed to expand the understanding of the relationship of stereochemistry to chemical reactivity, for compounds often used in the pharmaceutical industry.
“Al has set the tone for basic research in the chemistry department for many decades now, and we are delighted to see his contributions acknowledged and celebrated by the AAAS,” said David Lynn, chair of the Department of Chemistry. “It is equally important to recognize the critical mentoring role he has played for so many colleagues and young scientists around the world. He is a true scholar and citizen of the national synthetic chemistry community who continues to forge Emory’s leadership position in chemistry.”
This year 471 AAAS members were awarded the distinction of Fellow because of their efforts to advance science or its applications. Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and pin on Feb. 16 at the Fellows Forum during the 2008 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston.