Dr. Hugh Robertson, professor of biochemistry and respected colleague and friend of Weill Cornell Medical College, died on August 22 at the age of 62.
Dr. Robertson was a distinguished faculty member and widely known researcher whose studies provided essential insights into mechanisms involved in virus pathology. He devoted his career to studying the structure, behavior and function of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and designing antiviral therapies, with special focus on viral RNA and on enzymes specifically cleaving this RNA.
Dr. Robertson's life work led to a number of significant contributions throughout his career that spanned nearly four decades. In 1972, Dr. Robertson, with Nobel chemistry laureate Sidney Altman, discovered and purified the first two specific RNA-processing enzymes. In 2004, Dr. Robertson was awarded the Drug Discovery and Development Research Grant from GlaxoSmithKline, for his development of novel strategies to interrupt the life cycle of HIV. Among his other recent studies were therapies for hepatitis C and D. Dr. Robertson was a recipient of NIH grants, including a 1999 award for his study of "HCV Internal Ribosome Entry Site as Target for Therapy."
"He was a leading proponent of a major role for RNA in the origin of life," said Dr. Frederick Maxfield, chairman of the Department of Biochemistry. "His death represents a loss to science, to medicine and to the academic community of which he was a very active and dedicated member."
Dr. Robertson had published more than 85 research papers and numerous book chapters. He was a founding member of the American Society of Virology and the RNA Society. After graduating magna cum laude with a degree in biology from Harvard College, Dr. Robertson received his Ph.D. in life sciences from The Rockefeller University. He performed his postdoctoral work at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, and joined Weill Cornell in 1989.
Photo by Richard Nadel.