Awards Programs Award Winners Robert Linhardt

The 2019 Karl Meyer Award goes to Robert Linhardt

Donald L. Jarvis¹
Secretary, Society for Glycobiology, Department of Molecular Biology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071 USA

The Society for Glycobiology is pleased to announce Dr. Robert Linhardt as the recipient of the 2019 Karl Meyer Lectureship Award.² The Karl Meyer Award was established in 1990 to honor the distinguished career of Karl Meyer and his outstanding contributions to the field of Glycobiology. This international award is given to well-established scientists with currently active research programs who have made widely recognized major contributions to the field of Glycobiology.

The Karl Meyer Lectureship Award was established in 1990 to honor the distinguished career of Karl Meyer and his outstanding contributions to the field of Glycobiology. This international award is given to well-established scientists with currently active research programs who have made widely recognized major contributions to the field of Glycobiology.

The 2019 Karl Meyer Award will be presented to Dr. Robert J. Linhardt, who is Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Biology, and Biomedical Engineering. Professor Linhardt, aka “Bob”, earned his Ph.D. degree in Chemistry in 1979 at The Johns Hopkins University. His Ph.D. research in Physical Organic Chemistry gave him a strong background in chemical analysis, synthesis and mechanistic chemistry. Bob moved to MIT in 1979 to undertake postdoctoral studies with Professor Robert Langer in drug delivery and removal systems.  There, he was a co-discoverer of poly(anhydrides) for drug delivery resulting in the GliadelĂ’ wafer to treat brain cancer and first purified heparinase for use in a heparin removal system (Science 1982), eventually leading to the invention of a new low molecular weight (LMW) heparin drug, Tinzaparin. On leaving MIT in 1982, Bob joined the faculty at the University of Iowa were he spent the next 21 years rising through the ranks to become a Chaired Professor in the Departments of Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Chemistry. While at Iowa, Bob developed his reputation as one of the world’s foremost experts on glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), particularly the drug heparin. He shepherded the introduction of LMW heparins into the market by being the first to use multi-dimensional NMR, MS, and gel and capillary electrophoresis (Science 2002) for its analysis. He also elucidated new biological and pharmacological roles for heparin in inflammation (J Clin Inv 1998), angiogenesis (Science 1983), cell growth (Science 1996; Molec Cell 2000), and as an anti-infective (Nat Med 1997). During this period, Bob had the opportunity to work with many exceptional glycobiologists, including work undertaken during his 1992 sabbatical at UCSD and the La Jolla Cancer Res Fdn (now SBP).

In 2003, Bob moved to Rensselaer with a focus on understanding heparin-protein interactions as they related to heparin’s structure-activity relationships (Angew Chem 2002). In 2007-2008, when a heparin contamination crisis resulted in hundreds of deaths, Bob joined the team of scientists who discovered the OSCS adulterant (Nat Biotechnol 2008, 2010; PNAS 2009).  He then worked with the USP to help write a new monograph protecting this critical drug (Nat Biotechnol 2016). It was at this point that Bob changed his focus to the chemoenzymatic synthesis of LMW heparins and heparin, relying on recombinant Golgi enzymes, first developed in the Rosenberg lab by his former students, Jian Liu and B. Kuberan. Working with Jian Liu, Bob has chemoenzymatically synthesized many LMW heparins (Science 2011; Nat Chem Biol 2014; Sci Transl Med 2017; PNAS, 2019). He also has successfully prepared bioengineered heparin, which is in pre-clinical evaluation (J Am Chem Soc. 2008; Angew Chem 2019).

Bob’s new research directions include the application of metabolic engineering to GAG synthesis with targets including the large-scale production of heparin and chondroitin sulfates. He is applying CRISPR to control GAG biosynthesis (Nat Meth 2018) and better understand GAG glycobiology. Sequencing of GAG chains is underway (Nat Chem Biol 2011) and novel approaches for undertaking glycosaminoglycanomics are being investigated.
Over the past four decades Bob has mentored and advised over 200 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists and over 60 of these have become Professors, themselves. He has published over 900 research papers and holds nearly 100 patents. Bob is a Fellow of the NAI and AAAS and has received numerous awards including the ACS Isbell, Hudson and Wolfrom awards for his work on carbohydrates and the Volwiler, Gisvold and USP awards for his pharmaceutical research.
In summary, the 2019 Karl Meyer Lectureship Award recognizes Professor Linhardt’s seminal contributions to glycobiology, which include many outstanding contributions to our understanding of heparins and GAGs.