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Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award
Don B. Clewell

Microbiologist Don B. Clewell is respected internationally for his landmark research, including the discovery of genetic elements involved in the intercellular movement of genes in bacteria. Multiple antibiotic resistance has, over the years, become a major clinical concern. His studies have enhanced our understanding of the basic biology of plasmids and provided important insights into how antibiotic resistance emerges and spreads.

Through his work on the mechanisms of bacterial conjugation (DNA transfer between bacteria), Clewell and his research team discovered conjugative transposons, a new and highly promiscuous class of mobile genetic elements that integrate into their host’s genome. His group also discovered bacterial sex pheromones that act as mating signals between bacteria. Early in his career, Clewell did pioneering work on an E. coli plasmid, demonstrating how it replicates in the bacterial cell. The resulting papers describing the purification of plasmids from bacteria are frequently cited and serve as the basis for some of the most commonly used methods in modern molecular biology laboratories around the world.

Clewell, who has held joint faculty appointments in the School of Dentistry and the Medical School since 1970, is an invaluable resource for faculty and students across campus. In addition to teaching microbiology to medical, dental and nursing students, he has educated policy-makers and the public regarding the dangers of bacterial resistance. Many of Clewell’s former students hold faculty positions at academic institutions throughout the world.

Clewell has a long history of distinguished service to the University and to various national and international organizations and societies, including serving on the editorial boards of leading journals in his field. He has edited two important books on plasmid biology, “Bacterial Conjugation” (Plenum Press 1993) and “Plasmids in Bacteria” (Plenum Press 1985), and is frequently invited to give guest lectures.
A national leader in the field, Clewell has been a member of the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and has served on various NIH review panels.

Michael A. Savageau
Lawrence Sklar
Kensell D. Wise
Robert E. Lewis
Don B. Clewell
Andrew F. Nagy
Jeffrey R. Parsons
Julia Adams
Richard D. Woods
Fred C. Adams
Photios G. Ioannou


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