The University Record, June 19, 1995

Marletta receives $275,000 MacArthur Foundation fellowship

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

Biochemist Michael A. Marletta is one of 24 new MacArthur Fellows announced today by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Marletta, the John Gideon Searle Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy in the College of Pharmacy and professor of biological chemistry in the Medical School, will receive a $275,000 five-year fellowship from the foundation.

Marletta's current research focuses on the biochemistry of nitric oxide, a mysterious gas that regulates a wide range of physiological processes including blood pressure, immune system response and the transmission of nerve impulses in the brain. Because it exists for mere seconds in the body before being chemically transformed into other substances, the role played by nitric oxide was unknown until 1985 when Marletta published one of the first scientific papers documenting how nitric oxide is produced in mammalian cells.

Marletta's discovery has already led to new treatments for infants with pulmonary hypertension. Future clinical research with nitric oxide could produce new drugs to control a variety of cardiovascular and immunological diseases.

"Mike is an outstanding scientist, because he's a risk taker," said Ara G. Paul, dean of the College of Pharmacy. "Because he is willing to take risks, he has made pivotal discoveries related to the immune system. The MacArthur award will give him an opportunity to pursue additional high-risk problems."

"Mike is one of our most exciting and creative faculty members," said President James J. Duderstadt. "Beyond his immense contributions as a scholar, he also has been exceptionally dedicated in serving the University in a wide array of roles--ranging from serving as chair of the Pharmacy Dean's Search Committee to playing a starring role in Campaign for Michigan events."

Marletta, 44, joined the U-M faculty in 1987 as an associate professor. Prior to his U-M position, he was an associate professor of toxicology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Marletta was born and raised in Rochester, N.Y. He received his A.B. degree in 1973 from the State University of New York, College at Fredonia and his Ph.D. in 1977 from the University of California, San Francisco. He and his wife, Margaret, live in Ann Arbor with their 2-month-old son, Matthew.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is one of the largest private philanthropic foundations in the United States. Through its work, the foundation seeks lasting solutions to critical problems throughout the world by investing in creative people and ideas. A total of 172 individuals are currently receiving MacArthur Fellowship support, including six from the U-M.

In addition to Marletta, recent U-M MacArthur Fellows include Profs. Alice Fulton, John H. Holland, Stephan Lee, Sherry B. Ortner, Rebecca J. Scott and Henry T. Wright.