ASM News

ASM News

It's a New MicrobeWorld!

The Communications Department of the American Society for Microbiology has launched a new public information website,, that provides information about basic microbiology, issues involving microbiology, and many other resources for teenagers and adults. The site is complementary to, ASM's award-winning site aimed at middle-school children.

"We hope that the new MicrobeWorld will become a primary source for the public who want to know more about microbiology and its impact on their daily lives," said D. Jay Grimes, chair of ASM's Communications Committee. "We have designed the site so that it presents not only basic information on microbiology, but also current topics involving microbiology that people hear about in the news."

The new MicrobeWorld replaces the previous site that showcased the activities of the former Microbial Literacy Collaborative (MLC), a consortium of outreach activities centered on the PBS television series Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth, which premiered in October 1999. The new site retains some content developed by the MLC, including activities and resources, a link to the PBS site for the TV series, and links for ordering copies of the TV series, the companion book published by ASM, and the 12-part telecourse for college students.

Visitors to the site will find basic information on microbes-"what they are and what they do," tools microbiologists use, and profiles of a variety of microbiologists describing their work and how they became interested in microbiology. The site includes a microbe photo gallery as well as an historical timeline of key developments in microbiology since 1875.

A "Current Issues" section provides a more in-depth look at areas of microbiology that receive special attention from various ASM program units, such as water quality and antibiotic resistance, and highlights ASM reports and expertise in these areas. Another link connects users to ASM's Weekly News Digest, a compendium of links to current news stories related to microbiology. An additional section has an extensive listing of additional resources and hands-on activities that can be used by individuals or in classroom settings. New content will be added to the site periodically by the Communications Department.

The home page also has prominent links to other online resources from ASM, including the site, ASM's MicrobeLibrary, and ASM's main organizational site.

ASM Volunteers Play Prominent Role in IUMS


The International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS) recently elected a new Executive Board at its joint congresses of Bacteriology and Applied Microbiology, Virology, and Mycology, held in Paris in July 2002. Of the five new members of the Executive Board, three are current or past volunteer leaders of ASM, and all eight are ASM members. The 2002 IUMS Executive Board consists of the following members: President-Julian Davies (Canada), ASM past-president and numerous other volunteer positions; Vice-Presidents-Gail Cassell (United States), ASM past-president and current chair of the ASM Public and Scientific Affairs Board (PSAB), and Fusao Tomita (Japan), ASM member; At-Large Members-Daniel Sordelli (Argentina), current cochair of the ASM International Microbiology Education Committee and member of the ASM International Committee (IC), and Erko Stackebrandt (Germany), ASM member. These will join Secretary General John Mackenzie (Australia) and Treasurer Allan Hamilton (United Kingdom), who remain in their posts for one more period, as well as the heads of the Divisions of Bacteriology and Applied Microbiology-Karl Schleifer (Germany), ASM IC member, Virology-Hans Klenk, ASM member, and Mycology-R. Samson (the Netherlands). The IUMS past-president is Brian Mahy (United States), former PSAB member.


The IUMS was founded in 1927 as the International Society of Microbiology, and became the International Association of Microbiological Societies affiliated to the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) as a Division in 1967. It acquired independence in 1980 and became a Union Member of the International Council of Science (ICSU) in 1982. The objectives of the Union are to promote the study of microbiological sciences internationally; initiate, facilitate, and coordinate research and other scientific activities which involve international cooperation; ensure the discussion and dissemination of the results of international conferences, symposia, and meetings and assist in the publication of their reports; represent the microbiological sciences in ICSU; and maintain contact with other international organizations.

ASM is formally represented within IUMS through its participation in the U.S. National Committee (USNC) of the IUMS. Currently, four ASM volunteers serve on the USNC: Jay Grimes, Stanley Maloy, Stephen Lerner, and Anne Morris Hooke. Grimes and Maloy are ASM Council Policy Committee members, while Lerner and Morris Hooke are cochairs of the International Committee.

The "World of Microbes" World Congresses were held in Paris, 27 July to 1 August. Sordelli said that the Congresses "provided an extraordinary forum for truly international exchange. Microbiologists from all over the world participated in symposia, conferences, and poster sessions and benefited from rich discussions on matters of common interest." He noted that he "was encouraged to see young scientists actively engaged in scientific discussions with senior distinguished scientists, with no other distinction than a point of view on a given scientific finding-a view of the peace so much needed in the global world of today." The next joint congresses of the IUMS will be held in 2005 in San Francisco. The ASM Meetings Department has contracted with IUMS to organize the event.

IUMS is involved in a number of international activities to promote the science of microbiology. These include: (i) short-term fellowships, in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Microbial Resources Centers (MIRCENS), and the Society for General Microbiology; (ii) provision of ASM News to underserved countries who are members or associate members of IUMS; (iii) publication of IUMS journals, including the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology and the International Journal of Food Microbiology; publication of IUMS news items in ASM News, and of Virology Division news in Archives of Virology; and publication of major reports such as the Reports of the International Committee for the Taxonomy of Viruses; (iv) participation in the project Species 2000, which concerns the indexing the world's known species and is sponsored by IUBS/CODATA/IUMS; (v) continued support and involvement in DIVERSITAS: an Integrated Program of Biodiversity Science, and cosponsored by IUMS, IUBS, UNESCO, ICSU, the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP); (vi) initiation and support of the Pneumococcal Molecular Epidemiology Network; and (vii) support in establishing new regional collaborative groupings of member societies, including the Federation of Asian-Pacific Microbiological Societies and an Indian Ocean Rim Network for Emerging Infectious Diseases.

ASM Hosts Biodefense Research Meeting

ASM Biodefense Research Meeting

In response to the growing threat of bioterrorism, the American Society for Microbiology will be holding its first ASM Biodefense Research Meeting in Baltimore, Md., 9-12 March 2003.


"Never before in recent history has there been such an urgent need to mobilize the scientific and medical communities towards a research area, i.e., biodefense, where so little knowledge exists on the biology of the organisms, pathogenesis, and immune response," says Gail Cassell, chair of the meeting's program committee and chair of the ASM Public and Scientific Affairs Board. "Since October 2001, ASM has focused many of our efforts on policy issues, legislation, and gaps related to biodefense and security. Now we need to focus our attention on helping to mobilize the scientific community in research related to the development of countermeasures. The technical challenges are enormous. To be successful will require the best and brightest scientific talent in academia, government, and industry. After all, it is upon those in the microbiological and immunological sciences which the greater part of the responsibility falls."

The purpose of the meeting is to bring together researchers carrying out critical research aimed at defending against the growing threat of bioterrorism and decision makers shaping the future biodefense research agenda. It is intended for scientists in industry, government, and academia involved in the conduct of basic as well as developmental research in the area of infectious diseases and the leveraging of those research findings into effective countermeasures to be used in biodefense.

The meeting will feature a series of keynote addresses by leaders in the field of biodefense. In addition to the keynote sessions, the meeting will also include at least six invited sessions and hundreds of poster presentations of the latest cutting-edge research on biothreat agents, vaccines, detection and diagnostic procedures, and other topics vital to public health and safety.

"By bringing together these researchers, we hope this meeting will not only help us better understand the state-of-the-art of biodefense research but also develop a vision for future research directions," says Cassell.

In addition to Cassell, the program committee includes John Collier, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.; Stanley Falkow, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif.; Diane Griffin, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Md.; D. A. Henderson, senior science adviser to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and former director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness; Scott Hultgren, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.; John La Montagne, NIAID, Bethesda, Md.; and Frederick Murphy, University of California, Davis.

As an adjunct to the meeting, the ASM has established a website,, which initially will provide information about the meeting itself, including a call for abstracts, a preliminary program, and registration information. In the future, it is anticipated that the website will serve as a central resource for bioterrorism information the Society has collected that may be of use to biodefense researchers. The site will also feature not only audio and video webcasts of selected presentations from the Biodefense Research Meeting but also biodefense-related information from other ASM meetings.

Abstract submission and registration are now open for this meeting. More information is available on the Web at

Education Board

ASM Workshop for Teachers at SACNAS


Nwadiuto Esiobu of Florida Atlanta University and Kenneth L. Anderson of California State University conducted a workshop, "Discovering Microbial Interactions in the Community," at the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) meeting from 26-30 September in Anaheim, Calif. The workshop, developed for middle and high school teachers, featured classroom activities that demonstrate interactions between the unseen world of microbes and the human community. Significant scientific content on contemporary microbiological issues, such as infectious disease spread, was presented. Carlos Pelham, Coordinator of Faculty Programs at ASM, staffed the ASM booth providing information and resources for educators and students attending the SACNAS meeting. For more information about SACNAS, visit



Bonnie Bassler, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., is one of 24 recipients of the 2002 MacArthur Award. Bassler investigates quorum sensing, the chemical signaling mechanisms that bacteria use to communicate with each other. Bassler identified the genetic and biochemical regulatory circuits that control this phenomenon, which was initially thought to be an unusual adaptation in a few species. Her work led to the discovery, by her and others, of similar mechanisms in a wide variety of species. Evidence collected to date has demonstrated that quorum sensing controls a broad range of activities, from bioluminescence to bacterial mating. Bassler has also identified important biomedical applications for quorum sensing; some bacteria use it to coordinate the secretion of toxins that, in smaller doses, would produce little or no ill effect. Her research reveals new insights into the basic biology and ecology of bacteria, findings that may have direct application in the future treatment of disease.

Nine ASM members are among the 65 new members elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in health and medicine. The Institute announced the new members in October.

Current active members elect new members from among candidates chosen for their major contributions to health and medicine or to related fields such as social and behavioral sciences, law, administration, and economics. The Institute's charter requires that at least one-fourth of the members be drawn from other than the health professions. ASM members elected to the Institute this year are:

Caroline B. Hall, M.D., professor of pediatrics and medicine in infectious disease, School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Rochester, Rochester, N.Y.

Ira Herskowitz, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and biophysics, and codirector, program in human genetics, University of California, San Francisco.

James R. Lupski, M.D., Ph.D., professor, department of molecular and human genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Tex.

Gerald M. Rubin, M.D., vice president for biomedical research, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and professor of genetics and development, department of molecular and cell biology, University of California, Berkeley.

Michael A. Savageau, Ph.D., professor and chair, department of family medicine, School of Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Ralph M. Steinman, M.D., Henry G. Kunkel Professor, and senior physician, laboratory of cellular physiology and immunology, Rockefeller University, New York, N.Y.

Craig B. Thompson, M.D., chair, department of cancer biology, and scientific director, Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Irving L. Weissman, M.D., Karel and Avice Beekhuis Professor of Cancer Biology, department of pathology, Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif.

Barry J. Marshall, M.D., NHMRC Burnet Fellow, department of microbiology, University of Western Australia, Nedlands.

Election to the Institute is both an honor and an obligation to work on behalf of the organization in its governance and studies. With their election, members make a commitment to devote a significant amount of volunteer time as members of committees. The Institute's committees engage in a broad range of studies on health policy issues; current projects include a study on how best to assure the health of the public in the 21st century, a review of the current state of knowledge and policy regarding microbial threats to health, an assessment of the overall system of protections for human participants in research studies, a project examining the long-term medical and social results of cancer treatment and survival, and a series of six reports on Americans who lack health insurance and the consequences for them and society.

Leroy Hood will receive the 2002 Kyoto Prize from the Inamori Foundation of Japan. The prize of 50 million yen (about $408,000 U.S.) honors Hood for pioneering work in the automation of amino acid sequencing. His contributions include the 1984 development of the automated DNA synthesizer and the 1986 invention of the first automated DNA sequencer. Previously on the faculty at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Washington, Hood is president and director of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, Wash. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is a past laureate of the ASM Chiron Corporation Biotechnology Research Award, the Louis Pasteur Award, and the Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.

Alan C. Sartorelli, the Alfred Gilman professor of pharmacology at Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn., received the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Drug Discovery and Development Award. The GSK award honors HIV/AIDS researchers and their work to develop therapeutics.

Sartorelli was awarded $100,000 in recognition for his research on making certain enzyme inhibitors work more effectively. His breakthrough work with purine nucleosides will enable current drugs to be more effective in fighting the virus. "We have designed and will synthesize purine nucleoside analogs in which the chemical linkage between the sugar analog and the purine base is resistant to stomach acid and purine nucleoside phosphorylase," said Sartorelli. This research could also lead to new drugs that will be more potent at inhibiting the AIDS virus.

Julius S. Youngner, Distinguished Service Professor emeritus in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine's Department of Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, has been appointed chairman of the Board of Trustees at the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC), a Manassas, Va.-based bioresource center that provides the largest repository for cell and tissue cultures for research purposes in the world.

Youngner has served for 11 years on the ATCC's board of trustees and with the organization's Scientific Societies Advisory Council. A native of New York, his research focuses on the development of vaccines-particularly for viral infections. Youngner and Patricia Whitaker-Dowling, Ph.D., a research associate professor in molecular genetics and biochemistry, developed a live, weakened virus that was used in the first equine intranasal influenza vaccine. Youngner and Dowling also are studying human flu vaccines with an eye to using them as antiviral treatments.

ATCC: The Global Bioresource Center

A global nonprofit bioresource center, ATCC plays a critical role in supporting academic, government, and industrial researchers in the pursuit of discovery, invention, and commercialization. As chair of the organization's 11-member board of trustees, Youngner will help to oversee the professional management of the corporation. For more information on the ATCC, visit

Deceased Member

Donald J. Merchant, 80, Professor Emeritus of Eastern Virginia Medical School, died 9 August 2002. Born in Biltmore, N.C., Merchant was a graduate of Berea College and the University of Michigan. He served on the faculty of the Medical School of the University of Michigan from 1948-1969. He also served as Director of the W. Alton Jones Cell Science Center, Lake Placid, N.Y., 1969-1972, and as chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Eastern Virginia Medical School, 1973-1986. He was active in national professional associations and task forces, serving as president of the Tissue Culture Association, 1964-1968, member of the National Prostatic Cancer Task Force of the National Cancer Institute, 1972-1979, and director of Tidewater Regional Cancer Network, 1974-1988. He was listed in Who's Who in America. He was an Elder at Bayside Presbyterian Church, Virginia Beach, where he was active in the mission work of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. He received a Diploma of Merit from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Kinshasa, Republic of the Congo, in 2000.

Survivors include his wife, Marian A. Merchant; a daughter, Karen Boecker of Baltimore, Md.; a son, Barry Merchant of Richmond, Va.; four grandchildren; and four cousins, Graham Price of St. Cloud, Fla., the Rev. A. G. Price of Lavonia, Ga., Ray Clark Price of Selma, N.C. and Garland Price of Wendell, N.C. He was predeceased by a daughter, Nancy Drake.

ASM Branches and Divisions on the Web

The following ASM Branches have established numerous websites