Robert J. Suhadolnik (1925 – 2016)


Robert J. Suhadolnik, professor emeritus of biochemistry at Temple University, passed away in January. He was 90. Known for his research and two books on the biosynthesis of nucleoside antibiotics, Suhadolnik helped advance the study of HIV and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Suhadolnik was born in 1925 in Forrest City, N.Y. A decorated World War II veteran, he received his bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University, a master’s from Iowa State University and a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. He completed his postdoctoral studies at the University of Illinois.

Suhadolnik was the director of the department of bio-organic chemistry at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia from 1961 to 1974 before joining the faculty at Temple University. In addition to his dedication to teaching and research, Suhadolnik faithfully served as director of Temple’s biochemistry graduate program for nearly 30 years.

Suhadolnik’s research at Albert Einstein Medical Center centered on the biosynthesis of nucleoside antibiotics. He authored two books that are still considered to be the definitive publications in this area of research. Since the 1980s, Suhadolnik’s research had focused on the interferon-associated 2-5A synthetase/RNase L and p68 kinase pathways, part of the antiviral defense mechanism in mammalian cells. Work from his laboratory demonstrated the potential of novel 2-5A agonists to enhance host-cell innate and acquired immune defense mechanisms against HIV infection. Suhadolnik discovered a novel low-molecular-weight form of 2-5A dependent RNase L in blood cells from patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, patients. He held a patent for a CFS diagnostic test that was licensed through Temple University to RED Laboratories of Belgium.

Suhadolnik maintained continuous research funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health from 1961 until his retirement in 2001. In 1990, he was honored by Temple University with its Outstanding Researcher Award.

Suhadolnik and his colleague of more than 30 years, Wolfgang Pfleiderer at Konstanz University, are co-inventors of 25 U.S. and international patents. A thesis adviser to 22 Ph.D. students and mentor to 26 postdoctoral fellows, Suhadolnik was vibrant and genuinely warm and caring. He was passionate about basic research, had an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and remained active in science until the time of his death. He leaves behind a wife and three children.