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Steven J. Fliesler, PhD, and Lawrence Wrabetz, MD

Steven J. Fliesler, PhD (left) and Lawrence Wrabetz, MD, have been honored for achieving national and international prominence in their fields.

Vision, Neurology Experts Named UB Distinguished Professors

Published July 15, 2014

Steven J. Fliesler, PhD, Meyer H. Riwchun Endowed Chair Professor of ophthalmology and professor of biochemistry, and Lawrence Wrabetz, MD, professor of neurology and biochemistry, have been named University at Buffalo Distinguished Professors, effective Sept. 1.

The designation recognizes full professors who have achieved distinction and are national or international leaders in their fields.

They are among five UB professors receiving this honor in 2014 in recognition of their scholarly distinction and leadership.

Award-Winning Researcher on Metabolism in Retina

Fliesler is an expert in lipid — particularly cholesterol — metabolism in the retina, a topic he has been researching for more than 35 years. 

For more than two decades, the National Institutes of Health has funded his pioneering studies into retinal dysfunction and degeneration associated with hereditary metabolic disorders such as Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome, a rare but often deadly birth defect caused by defective cholesterol synthesis. 

Additionally, Fliesler and colleagues have worked to develop novel gene therapy applications for the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa and other genetic eye conditions.

An internationally recognized researcher, Fliesler has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, numerous book chapters, reviews, editorials and abstracts. He is president of the International Society for Eye Research. 

Fliesler received a 2014 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence for his outstanding scholarship. He also was honored as a 2014 ARVO Gold Fellow by the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, and he was recently elected to the ARVO board of trustees.

A UB faculty member since 2008, Fliesler is vice chair and director of research for the Department of Ophthalmology. He also oversees UB’s Ira G. Ross Eye Institute Vision Research Center, housed at the Buffalo VA Medical Center, and he is a research health scientist in the Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System.

Internationally Recognized Authority on Myelin Research

Wrabetz, the director of the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute, is an internationally recognized neuroscientist with expertise in basic and translational research on myelin — the sheath protecting brain nerve fibers that are essential for normal functioning of the nervous system.

His research focuses on remyelination techniques and the biology and pathophysiology of Krabbe Disease. He aims to discover ways to correct the genetic defect responsible for this disease and other leukodystrophies.

Wrabetz also studies the pathogenesis of inherited demyelinating neuropathies, and he has developed and characterized multiple mouse models of Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathies. 

Since 1995, Wrabetz’s research into myelin and neuropathy has been supported continuously with grants from various sources, including the National Institutes of Health, Empire State Development Corporation, European research institutes and international pharmaceutical companies.

He has co-authored several book chapters, and he has authored 100 peer-reviewed publications.

Wrabetz is a member of several professional and scientific societies, including the American Academy of Neurology, the American Society of Neurochemistry, the International Society of Neurochemistry and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

A UB faculty member since 2011, Wrabetz previously led the myelin biology unit at San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy.

Awardees Recognized at Celebration of Excellence

The UB Distinguished Professor designation is a university honor created by the Office of the Provost. Honorees are recognized at UB’s annual Celebration of Faculty and Staff Excellence, held each fall.