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Expert on Emerging Infectious Zoonotic Diseases Joining K-State as a Regents Distinguished Professor

MANHATTAN, Kan., Aug. 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Juergen Richt, lead scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Animal Disease Center and an adjunct professor at Iowa State University, will be joining Kansas State University as a Regents Distinguished Professor.

Richt's appointment begins in April 2008.

The Regents professorship, which is in the College of Veterinary Medicine, is the most prestigious of all academic appointments in the Kansas Regents' system of universities and colleges. The appointment comes with generous funding support, as well as the chance to direct the appointment of at least two additional new supporting faculty positions.

Richt is a veterinary microbiologist who has worked with multiple agents of zoonotic potential. Zoonotic diseases can be transmitted from animals to humans. Richt has published extensively on topics including the microbiology of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, chronic wasting disease, animal flu, borna virus and other emerging zoonotic diseases. He's been widely published in more than 60 journals, including Nature Biotechnology, Journal of Experimental Medicine, Journal of Virology and Science.

Richt's appointment further strengthens the nexus of expertise at K-State in the animal health and food safety and security arenas.

"Dr. Juergen Richt will be a brilliant addition not only to our faculty in the College of Veterinary Medicine, but for the entire university and the state of Kansas," said Jon Wefald, K-State president.

"Dr. Richt's experience and reputation will contribute tremendously to our university-wide commitment to animal health and food safety and security," said Ralph Richardson, dean of K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine. "His research will greatly advance K-State as a center of research excellence in infectious diseases of livestock.

"In many ways, he will position us to play an important role in protecting the public from emerging infectious diseases such as avian influenza," Richardson said.

Richt received a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Munich, and a doctorate in veterinary virology from the University of Giessen in Germany under the guidance of the late Dr. Rudolf Rott, considered one of the most eminent veterinary virologists of the last century. Richt's postdoctoral studies were conducted at Johns Hopkins University from 1989 to 1991.

In 1991, he returned to the Institute of Virology at the University of Giessen's College of Veterinary Medicine and established an independent and well-funded research program in molecular virology. Richt moved to the U.S. in 2000 to work as a veterinary medical officer at the National Animal Diseases Center, a federally-funded laboratory with broad goals similar to those of K- State's animal health and food safety and security programs. At the federal center, Richt worked in two areas: emerging viral diseases of swine and prion diseases, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also called BSE or mad cow disease. He was the first in the U.S. to describe "atypical" BSE cases.

Richt has developed novel diagnostic tests to detect major swine respiratory pathogens, as well as developing novel vaccination concepts against flu viruses. He also has studied the interspecies transmission of prion agents. Because of his research expertise, he has begun rapidly moving into the field of animal influenza research and is being recognized for his understanding of avian/swine/human viral transmission.

As a Regents professor, Richt said he plans to establish a new research program at K-State's Biosecurity Research Institute. The opportunity, he said, was a major factor in his decision to come to K-State.

"K-State's commitment to working on major livestock diseases is tremendously important for both the agricultural community and national security," Richt said. "I am looking forward to contributing to the scientific environment at K-State and to the education of veterinary students, especially in the interface between veterinary and human medicine."

Pronouncer: Juergen Richt is Yer-gen Rickt

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SOURCE Kansas State University
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