Public Release: 

The American Society for Microbiology honors Stuart B. Levy

American Society for Microbiology

Washington, DC--June 6, 2012 -- Stuart B. Levy, M.D., has been honored with the esteemed 2012 Abbott-ASM Lifetime Achievement Award, ASM's premier award for sustained contributions to the microbiological sciences, for his many decades of dedicated basic science and his advisory work in the area of antimicrobial drug resistance. A long time Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology and Microbiology and of Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, Levy is currently the Director of the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance. "Levy has dedicated most of his life to antibiotic resistance," says his nominator, Hiroshi Nikaido, University of California, Berkeley. "Throughout his career, he has not only elucidated the genetics and biochemistry of one of the most important mechanisms for drug resistance, but also strived to minimize the selection and spreading of resistant bacteria."

Levy received his bachelor's degree from Williams College, magna cum laude, and his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, during which time he spent a year in radiation genetics at the Institut de Radium of the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

"Levy is a pioneer in the detection and elucidation of antibiotic resistance by efflux of drugs," says Patrice Courvalin, Institut Pasteur. "This has, since then, been recognized as a major mechanism in a large variety of bacterial human pathogens." Much of Levy's work has been devoted to the mechanisms and control of resistance, both in bacterial and mammalian cells, working with tetracyclines as the paradigm. He is credited with the discovery of the inner membrane Tet protein, which is responsible for pumping tetracyclines out of the cell. His research team published the first quaternary molecular structure of this protein. Levy also discovered the regulatory operon, marRAB, which controls upwards of 90 other genes in the cell, and regulates the expression of multidrug resistance and virulence. This work led to the 3D crystal structure of MarR, the first of several members of the Mar family. He led the discovery of the target (enoyl reductase) for the antibacterial chemical triclosan, commonly used in household cleaning products and was the first to report the mechanism of cross-resistance between triclosan and clinically used antibiotics.

Levy's work was the foundation for the establishment of Paratek Pharmaceuticals in 1996, whose aim is the discovery and development of new antibiotics not subject to resistance. He and his group are credited with the first demonstration of overlapping genes in chromosomal genomes, namely in Pseudomonas fluorescens, a species that is being considered for biocontrol applications. He is known for coining the term "societal drugs" for antimicrobials, since individual use affects other members of society through the selection of drug-resistant bacteria. More than two decades ago, he described for the first time the heterogeneity of tetracycline resistance determinants, setting the stage for finding similar heterogeneity among other resistance determinants. He led some of the early work examining the survival of bacteria in the human intestinal tract, during the early days of recombinant DNA research.

Besides basic science studies, he has also performed studies in the environment and on farms. His landmark 1976 New England Journal of Medicine paper demonstrated the ecologic effects of introducing an antibiotic-containing feed to animals on a farm leading to the transfer of these resistant bacteria from animals to farm workers. Of note, he has also reported the spread of resistance genes and bacteria among farm animals, clearly demonstrating that animals can share bacteria and resistance genes with other animals and humans.

For 30 years, Levy has served as the president of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA), which he co-founded in 1981. APUA has grown to become a global organization, with 66 chapters and members in more than 100 countries. Levy serves on many committees and Boards, and is an original member of the National Scientific Advisory Board on Biosecurity. Among his many honors are the Garrod Lecture for the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, the SWAB award from Dutch Working Party on Antibiotic Policy, the Hoechst-Roussel award for esteemed research in antimicrobial chemotherapy from the American Society for Microbiology, and honorary degrees from Wesleyan and Des Moines Universities. Most recently, he received the prestigious Hamao Umezawa Memorial Award from the International Society of Chemotherapy. He is an elected Fellow in many professional societies, including the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Microbiology, the Infectious Disease Society of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He served as President of the American Society for Microbiology from 1998-1999.

During his career, Levy has mentored more than 90 post-doctoral fellows and has authored over 300 articles and reviews, 100 book chapters, and several books. His 1992 book, The Antibiotic Paradox: How Miracle Drugs Have Destroyed the Miracle is in its second edition and has been translated into several languages, including French, Czech, Korean, and Chinese.

"Levy has been a steadfast advocate for increased funding for research in areas related to drug resistance and for providing opportunities for a new generation of young investigators to enter the field," says Stephen Lerner, Wayne State University School of Medicine. "His fundamental discoveries might have simply gratified his thirst for knowledge. However, he brought his studies and their implications beyond the laboratory to influence directions in infectious disease research and public health policy worldwide, increasing public and professional awareness of antibiotic resistance and of the proper use of antibiotics."

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To view Dr. Levy's biosketch, please visit: http://www.asm.org/index.php/awards-grants/current-abbott-asm-lifetime-achievement-award-laureate.html

The Abbott-ASM Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented during the 112th General Meeting of the ASM, June 16 - 19, 2012 in San Francisco, California. ASM is the world's oldest and largest life science organization and has more than 40,000 members worldwide. ASM's mission is to advance the microbiological sciences and promote the use of scientific knowledge for improved health and economic and environmental well‐being.

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