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Lani J. Burkman, scientist, infertility expert

Sept. 11, 1948 – March 4, 2016

Lani J. Burkman, a research scientist and widely renowned expert on male infertility, died Friday in her Grand Island home after a struggle with cancer. She was 67.

Born in Santa Barbara, Calif., the former Lani Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of California Santa Barbara and completed her doctoral studies in physiology at the University of California Davis in 1982

She then became a researcher at the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Norfolk, Va., the nation’s first in vitro fertilization clinic, where she developed the hemizona assay, a highly regarded sperm function test. Her studies led to the discovery of sperm hyperactivation, a critical stage in the fertilization of an egg.

She joined faculty at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine in 1994, where she was director of the Division of Andrology, established an andrology laboratory and studied the effects of tobacco and marijuana use on male fertility. She also was an associate professor of gynecology and obstetrics.

She retired from UB in 2009 to found LifeCell Dx, a biotech company that uses computer analysis to predict a man’s probability of fertility. She patented a process to assess male fertility over the Internet and helped thousands of couples worldwide wanting to have children. Her scientific work often took her to Asia and Europe.

She enjoyed gardening, camping, singing and playing the piano. At Trinity United Methodist Church on Grand Island, she taught children and adults and sang in the choir.

Survivors include her husband, Thomas W., a Japan historian and retired UB professor; a daughter, Heather; a son, Wesley; a step-son, J. Bradford; a step-daughter, Mary Gworek; her father, J. Archie Johnson; a sister, Rena Sperling; two brothers, Rod Johnson and Steve Johnson; and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. March 19 in Trinity United Methodist Church, 2100 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island, following visitation at 10 a.m.