ASBMB Past Presidents

1989 – William J. Lennarz

(b. 1934)



William Joseph Lennarz was president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1989. He was born in New York City and received his B.S. in chemistry from Pennsylvania State University (1956) and his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Illinois (1959). Subsequently, he carried out postdoctoral research on fatty acid biosynthesis at Harvard University with Konrad Bloch. In 1962, he was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Physiological Chemistry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He was promoted to associate professor of biochemistry in 1966 and professor in 1971. Lennarz left Baltimore, Maryland for Texas in 1983 when he was appointed Robert A. Welch Professor and chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Texas Cancer Center, M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston. In 1989, he joined the faculty of the State University of New York at Stony Brook and became distinguished professor and chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, a title he still holds today. In 1990, he founded and became director of the Institute for Cell and Developmental Biology at Stony Brook University.

Lennarz' early work focused on lipids and bacterial cell surfaces. He showed that lipid linked sugars were biosynthetic precursors of polysaccharides. Lennarz' work on membrane glycoproteins was featured as a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1). Lennarz' more recent efforts have been in the structure, biosynthesis, and function of cell surface glycoproteins and their role in fertilization and embryonic development in the sea urchin and frog. Currently, he is studying the steps involved in glycoprotein synthesis.

In addition to being president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Lennarz served as president of both the Biochemistry Chairman's Organization and the Society for Glycobiology. He was awarded the Society for Glycobiology Karl Meyer Award in 2004. Lennarz was a member of the executive committee of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology for almost a decade. He served as co-editor-in-chief for the Encyclopedia of Biological Chemistry and was a member of the editorial board for Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1989.

1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., and Hill, R. L. (2006) The biosynthesis of membrane glycoproteins: The work of William J. Lennarz. J. Biol. Chem. 281 (29)