World-Renowned Expert In Infectious Diseases Dies

November 26, 1997

World-Renowned Expert in Infectious Diseases Dies Dr. Harold C. Neu, one of the world's foremost experts in infectious diseases and antimicrobial agents, died Jan. 25, 1998, at his home in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. He was 63 years old. He was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a brain tumor, in 1993, his family said. Chief of the division of infectious diseases at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, Dr. Neu studied new antimicrobial agents in pharmacological, biochemical, and in vitro studies and conducted clinical trials of new compounds. In 1981, he received international attention when he and Dr. Paul Ellner, professor emeritus of microbiology at Columbia, developed the concept of the inhibitory quotient. The concept was widely received as a method to better correlate antimicrobial activity and pharmacokinetics and today has become the international standard. In recent years, Dr. Neu was concerned about the spread of drug-resistant bacteria due to the overuse of antibiotics and was active in informing physicians how antibiotics should best be used. In a 1992 issue of Science, he reviewed the mechanisms of resistance to most antibiotics, described the organisms in which antibiotic resistance is a problem, and described the potential for crises in the future. He was the author of more than 500 abstracts and 800 papers on antimicrobial agents and infectious disease. He also participated in the production of video programs to demonstrate mechanisms of bacterial resistance and the best use of antibiotics. One program, the National Antibiotic Therapy Test, was shown nationwide and alerted medical educators to the need for improved education in medical microbiology and the use of antimicrobial agents. During more than 30 years at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, Dr. Neu wrote in November 1993, "our division has studied virtually every class of antimicrobial agent available throughout the world. In many cases we have been the first to study the human pharmacology of the drug and to perform the initial clinical trials which have been published in the American and European literature. There will always be a need for new antibiotics since bacteria have the remarkable ability to overcome each new agent that is synthesized or found in nature." Born in Omaha, Neb., Dr. Neu earned his medical degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. At graduation he received the Borden Research Award for most meritorious research as a medical student. He joined Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center as an intern in 1960 and became chief medical resident in 1964 after two years as a research associate in an NIH lab. He rose through the ranks at Columbia to become chief of the infectious diseases division in the Department of Medicine in 1971. He became full professor of medicine and of pharmacology at Columbia University in 1975. He also was an attending physician at Presbyterian Hospital and became hospital epidemiologist for Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. He received many honors, including the Hoechst-Roussel Award from the American Society of Microbiology for outstanding research in antimicrobial chemotherapy, the Distinguished Investigator Award from the American College of Clinical Pharmacology, and the Poster Award from the 17th International Congress of Chemotherapy. Dr. Neu was honored twice with the Teacher of the Year Award by the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons (Classes of 1991 and 1993). He also received the Dean's Distinguished Teaching Award from the college in 1993. The Columbia University Trustees honored Dr. Neu in 1994 by establishing the Harold C. Neu Professorship in Infectious Diseases. Dr. Neu is survived by his wife of 35 years, Dr. Carmen Ortiz-Neu, two daughters, Maria Neu Rorer of Fort Washington, Pa., and Dr. Natalie Neu of New York City; a son, Harold of New York City; and a grandaughter Katerine. Funeral services will be Jan. 28, at St. Matthews Lutheran Church in Hastings-on-Hudson. Memorial contributions should be made to the Harold C. Neu Professorship at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, 630 West 168th Street, Box #55, New York, NY 10031


Distinguished Investigator Award, Fort Washington, New York City, Physicians Surgeons