Juergen Richt

Juergen RichtRegents Distinguished Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine  Kansas Bioscience Authority Eminent Scholar Director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases

A deep fascination with the ability of an infectious agent to outsmart its host has been the driving force behind Juergen Richt's expertise in diagnosing and treating zoonotic diseases -- those which can be transmitted from animals to humans or vice versa.

Richt is a veterinary microbiologist who has worked with multiple agents of zoonotic potential, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease, chronic wasting disease, animal influenza viruses, Rift Valley Fever virus, Borna virus and other emerging pathogens.

Richt's career, which includes a seven-year assignment as lead scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Animal Disease Center, has been spent developing novel testing methods and remedies for a number of animal and zoonotic diseases.

Originally from Germany, Richt earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Munich, and a doctorate in veterinary virology from the University of Giessen. Richt's postdoctoral studies were conducted at Johns Hopkins University from 1989 to 1991.

He returned to the University of Giessen in 1991, establishing an independent and well-funded research program in molecular virology at the Institute of Virology in the University's College of Veterinary Medicine. Richt moved to the U.S. at the end of 2000 to work as a veterinary medical officer at the National Animal Disease Center, a federally-funded laboratory in Ames, Iowa, with broad goals similar to those of K-State's animal health and food safety and security programs. Richt joined K-State in 2008 as Regents Distinguished Professor and Kansas Bioscience Eminent Scholar in the College of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology. Richt became the director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, or CEEZAD, at K-State in 2010. As director, he leads an international network for scientific research involving 11 universities, various commercial firms and 14 principal investigators.

While at the National Animal Disease Center, Richt worked primarily in two areas: emerging viral diseases of swine and prion diseases, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy. He has developed innovative vaccinations concepts against flu viruses and novel diagnostic tests to detect major swine respiratory pathogens. He also has studied the interspecies transmission of prion agents and the molecular nature of newly emerging bovine spongiform encephalopathy strains. In addition, Dr. Richt and colleagues were the first to generate prion protein-deficient cattle which are healthy and resistant to prion diseases. In his influenza research, Dr. Richt’s laboratory was the first to establish a reverse genetics system for studying Swine Influenza Virus (SIV) pathogenesis in its natural host, the pig. These studies led to the identification of influenza virulence factors and the development of a modified live virus vaccine based on a genetically engineered truncation within the NS1 gene. Recently, Dr. Richt and colleagues used the reconstructed 1918 influenza virus for experimental infections of swine and chickens using the BSL-4 Biocontainment Facilities in Winnipeg, Canada.

At K-State, Richt is developing a research program that involves a multidisciplinary approach to solving both existing and emerging animal and zoonotic disease concerns. This includes the development of novel vaccines against threat diseases like Rift Valley Fever or avian flu as well as assays to rapidly detect these agents.

He has authored or co-authored more than 110 peer-reviewed articles. His work has been published extensively, including in such prestigious journals as Nature Biotechnology, Science, Journal of Experimental Medicine, PNAS, Cell Host Microbe and Journal of Virology. He also holds a position on the prestigious scientific advisory board of the Scientific and Technical Review of the World Organization for Animal Health, the OIE, in Paris. In 2011, Richt received the Pfizer Animal Health Award for Research Excellence. For some years now, his aim has been to combine significant scientific research with the communication of those research results to both scientists and nonscientists.

Ten Recent Publications

Ma W, Belisle SE, Mosier D, Li X, Stigger-Rosser E, Liu Q, Qiao C, Elder J, Webby R, Katze MG, Richt JA. 2011. 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus causes disease and upregulation of genes related to inflammatory and immune response, cell death and lipid metabolism in pigs. J Virol. [Epub ahead of print]

Ma W, Lager KM, Li X, Janke BH, Mosier DA, Painter LE, Ulery ES, Ma J, Lekcharoensuk P, Webby RJ, Richt JA. 2011. Pathogenicity of swine influenza viruses possessing an avian or swine-origin PB2 polymerase gene evaluated in mouse and pig models. Virology. 410:1-6

Ma W, Lager KM, Lekcharoensuk P, Ulery ES, Janke BH, Solorzano A, Webby RJ, Garcia-Sastre A, Richt JA. 2010. Viral reassortment and transmission after coinfection of pigs with classical H1N1 and triple reassortant H3N2 swine influenza viruses. J. Gen. Virol. 91: 2314-2321

Ma W, Oberst R., Li X, Clouser D, Hesse R, Rowland R, Richt JA. 2010. Rapid detection of the pandemic 2009 H1N1 virus M gene by real-time and gel-based RT-PCR assays. Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 4:397-403.

Weingartl HM, Albrecht RA, Lager KM, Babiuk S, Marszal P, Neufeld J, Embury-Hyatt C, Lekcharoensuk P, Tumpey TM, García-Sastre A, Richt JA. 2009. Experimental infection of pigs with the human 1918 pandemic influenza virus. J Virol. 83:4287-96

Ferguson-Smith MA, Richt JA. 2009. Rare BSE mutation raises concerns over risks to public health. Nature. 457:1079

Richt JA, Hall SM. (2008). BSE case associated with prion protein gene mutation. PLoS Pathog. 4:e1000156

Ma W, Vincent AL, Gramer MR, Brockwell CB, Lager KM, Janke BH, Gauger PC, Patnayak DP, Webby RJ, Richt JA. 2007. Identification of H2N3 influenza A viruses from swine in the United States. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci USA. 104: 20949-20954

Vincent, AL, Ma, W, Lager, KM, Janke, BH, Webby, RJ, Garcia-Sastre, A, Richt, JA. 2007. Efficacy of intranasal administration of a truncated NS1 modified live influenza virus vaccine in swine. Vaccine. 25: 7999-8009

Richt, JA, Kasinathan, P, Hamir, AN, Castilla, J, Sathiyaseelan, J, Vargas, F, Sathiyaseelan, J, Wu, H, Matsushita, H, Koster, J, Kato, S, Ishida, I, Soto, C, Robl JM, Kuroiwa, Y. 2007. Production of cattle lacking prion protein. Nat. Biotechnol., 25:132-138