November 9, 2001

Marnett named AAAS Fellow

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Larry Marnett, Ph.D., is the fifth Vanderbilt researcher to be named an AAAS Fellow. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Marnett named AAAS Fellow

Lawrence J. Marnett, Ph.D., has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Marnett, Mary Geddes Stahlman Professor of Cancer Research and professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry, is being honored for his contributions to the field of lipid oxidation—the chemical reactions involving oxygen and fatty molecules in cells.

Marnett is among 288 new AAAS Fellows selected because their efforts toward advancing science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished. They will be recognized at the association’s annual meeting in February.

“I was surprised and very pleased to learn I had been elected a Fellow of the AAAS,” Marnett said. “Election as a Fellow is quite an honor for me personally, but in reality it recognizes the many people in my laboratory who have contributed so much experimentally and intellectually to our research efforts over the years. I have been blessed with outstanding and enthusiastic coworkers throughout my career as well as excellent collaborators. I’m very grateful to all of them.”

Marnett and his colleagues have gained international renown for their work on the structure and function of enzymes that perform lipid oxidation reactions and on DNA damage resulting from lipid oxidation products.

Marnett’s team has been central to the discovery and characterization of drugs popularly called “super aspirins.” Because these drugs selectively target an enzyme called cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), they offer aspirin-like relief of pain and inflammation without bleeding and stomach upsetting side effects. Marnett and colleagues are working to develop more potent super aspirins that could join the two—Celebrex and Vioxx—already on the market. Such compounds might also find use in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

In other studies, Marnett’s group focuses on the molecular basis of DNA damage by naturally occurring lipid reaction products. They have characterized how these compounds react with DNA to produce mutations and are working to identify the DNA repair enzymes that remove these mutated regions.

Marnett earned his Ph.D. from Duke University under the guidance of Ned A. Porter, Ph.D., now Stevenson Professor of Chemistry at Vanderbilt. He completed postdoctoral training at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and was on the faculty at Wayne State University for 14 years before coming to Vanderbilt in 1989 as director of the A.B. Hancock Jr. Memorial Laboratory for Cancer Research. Marnett has served as associate director for Basic Research Programs of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center since 1993.

Marnett has been honored as a gifted teacher and scientist. He received both the Wayne State University and the Michigan Association of Governing Boards Distinguished Faculty Awards and was twice chosen among the top five teachers by first-year medical students at Vanderbilt. Marnett was named Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor at Vanderbilt in 2000, and he was the first recipient of the Medical Center’s Stanley Cohen Faculty Research Award “for research bringing diverse disciplines, such as chemistry or physics, to solving biology’s most important fundamental problems.”

Marnett is the fifth Vanderbilt University Medical Center scientist elected to the rank of AAAS Fellow. He joins Dr. John H. Exton, F. Peter Guengerich, Ph.D., Brigid L.M. Hogan, Ph.D., and Dr. John A. Oates.

The AAAS, founded in 1848, is the world’s largest federation of scientists. With more than 143,000 individual members and 276 affiliated societies, the association works to advance science for human well being through its projects, programs and publications. The tradition of AAAS Fellows distinction began in 1874.