2020 Passano Award Laureate

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Professor David Eisenberg has been selected as the 2020 Passano Award Laureate in recognition of his groundbreaking protein research. 

A biochemist and biophysicist, Eisenberg is being recognized for his seminal contributions to the understanding at the atomic level how and why certain proteins aggregate into amyloid fibrils.

Since 1945 the Passano Foundation has presented an award each year to a person or persons who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of medical science and whose work was done in the United States. The award will be presented to Eisenberg at a special dinner in Baltimore in the spring of 2020.


Eisenberg is a giant presence in the broad field of protein science. In addition to being a ground-breaking researcher, he is a well-respected science educator and ethicist.

As a Harvard undergraduate, Eisenberg studied with Professor John T. Edsall, one of the pioneers of protein chemistry, who oriented his life’s work. As a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, Eisenberg earned a DPhil in theoretical chemistry for study with Professor Charles Coulson on hydrogen bonding in ice. Returning to the United States, Eisenberg worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton with Professor Walter Kauzmann, the discoverer of the hydrophobic interaction.  Together they wrote a monograph,

The Structure and Properties of Water

, still in print after 51 years. In a second postdoctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology, Eisenberg learned X-ray crystallography from Professor Richard Dickerson (who later joined the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty in 1981). Since 1968, Eisenberg has been on the faculty of UCLA, now as the Paul D. Boyer Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and as Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Beginning in 1999, Eisenberg concentrated on studies of prions and proteins in the amyloid state.   

Eisenberg is a member of several scholarly societies, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Crystallographic Association. He has received the Harvard Westheimer Medal, the UCLA Seaborg Medal, the Harvey International Prize in Human Health, the Bert and Natalie Vallee Award in Biomedical Science, and is an honorary fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford.

To learn more about Eisenberg’s research, visit his group’s website.

Photo by Reed Hutchinson/UCLA Newsroom

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.