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Benjamin Weiss

Benjamin Weiss, PhD

Professor Emeritus

Department: Pharmacology & Physiology


  • PhD in Pharmacology - Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science (1963)
  • MS in Pharmacology - Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science (1960)
  • BS - Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science (With Distinction) (1958)

Awards & Honors

  • Emeritus Professorship - Drexel University College of Medicine (2000)
  • Outstanding Scientist Award from China Bureau of Foreign Experts Affairs, Suzhou Medical College, Suzhou, China (1995)
  • MERIT Award - National Institute of Mental Health (1986)
  • Research Medal awarded by the University of Milan, Milan, Italy (1982)
  • Named as one of the Top One Thousand Most Quoted Scientists in the World (1981)
  • Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching (1980)
  • Rho Chi Honorary Pharmaceutical Society (1959)
  • Borden Award (1959)
  • Rexall Award (1959)
  • Dobbins Scholarship (1958)
  • Frederick William Haussman Memorial Prize (1958)
  • Joseph W. E. Harrison Award for Excellence in Pharmacology (1958)
  • Gold Medal for Attaining Highest Scholastic Average of College Graduates (1958)

Postgraduate Training / Additional Certifications

  • Research Associate - Columbia University (1966-1968)
  • Staff Fellow - National Heart Institute, National Institutes of Health (1965-1966)
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship - National Heart Institute, National Institutes of Health (1963-1965)

Benjamin Weiss, PhD, is a professor emeritus in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at Drexel University College of Medicine.

Professional Appointments

  • Professor Emeritus in Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA (2000)
  • Visiting Scientist, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel (1982)
  • Chief, Division of Neuropsychopharmacology, Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA (1981)
  • Visiting Scientist, Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche "Mario Negri," Milan, Italy (1981)
  • Professor of Pharmacology and Psychiatry, Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA (1972)
  • Chief, Section on Neuroendocrinology, National Institute of Mental Health, Washington, DC (1971)
  • Pharmacologist, National Institute of Mental Health, Washington, DC (1968)
  • Research Associate, Columbia University, New York, NY (1966)
  • Staff Fellow, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD (1965)


There were three major areas of Dr. Weiss’ research activities:

  1. Studies on the isolation, regulation, and inhibition of the multiple molecular forms of cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase isozymes;
  2. Studies on antisense oligonucleotides and antisense RNA; and
  3. Studies on the regulation of the adrenergic receptor-linked adenylate cyclase system.

Cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases

Dr. Weiss and co-workers developed rapid phosphodiesterase assays, separated different isozymes of phosphodiesterase in various tissues by electrophoretic methods and showed that drugs could selectively inhibit several isozymes of phosphodiesterase. His laboratory showed that a single cell type may contain more than one form of phosphodiesterase; different forms of phosphodiesterase could be induced or activated by certain neurohormones (e.g. norepinephrine) and intracellular proteins (e.g. calmodulin); and that there are different forms of phosphodiesterase in different tissues including the mammalian brain and lung.

His studies on the inhibition of the multiple molecular forms of phosphodiesterase have provided the basis for the development of many commercially marketed drugs and experimental drugs across several therapeutic areas that have as their mechanism of action the selective inhibition of one or more isozymes of phosphodiesterase, including drugs for cardiac failure, asthma, stroke, psoriasis, erectile dysfunction and schizophrenia.

Antisense oligonucleotides and antisense RNA

In related studies, Dr. Weiss’ laboratory made discoveries on: 1) The role of calmodulin in neuronal differentiation and proliferation; 2) Behavioral and biochemical correlates of dopamine responses in brain; 3) Development of antisense oligonucleotides and antisense RNA as pharmacological tools to study calmodulin and dopamine receptors, and as pharmacological agents for gene therapy in brain; and 4) Reversal of dopaminergic supersensitivity: preclinical mechanisms and clinical applications.

These studies laid the foundation for the therapeutic use of antisense oligonucleotides and antisense RNA in a variety of disease states. More recent clinical studies by many others have produced new types of antisense treatments, and several drugs are currently on the market and many others are in clinical development using the concept of antisense therapy, including in cancer, Huntington’s disease and other neurological diseases.

Modulation of adrenergic receptor-linked adenylate cyclase system

Using the pineal gland as a model, Dr. Weiss and colleagues were the first to show that the beta-adrenergic receptor-linked adenylate cyclase system is modified chronically by a variety of physiological factors and pharmacological perturbations. These studies show that long-term changes that occur following physiological or pharmacological alterations in adrenergic input may be explained by a common biological principle: that is, the degree to which an adrenergic-innervated structure can be stimulated is inversely related to the degree to which it had been previously stimulated. This hypothesis may provide a biochemical basis for explaining the altered responsiveness of the adrenergic system seen in aging and in males vs. females and may explain the mechanism for drug supersensitivity and drug tolerance.


Dr. Weiss has published over 300 scientific articles, reviews, and abstracts on his research in the fields of molecular biology and molecular pharmacology. He has also edited two books: one on the potential therapeutic application of cyclic nucleotides and another on the development and use of antisense oligonucleotides and antisense RNA as pharmacological tools and their use in gene therapy. Further, Dr. Weiss has been awarded three patents based on his research.

See select publications from Dr. Weiss’ group here.