A deep fascination with the ability of an infectious agent to outsmart its host has been the driving force behind Jürgen 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 and established 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 Kansas State University’s animal health and food safety programs.
Richt joined Kansas State University 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 Department of Homeland Security’s Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, or CEEZAD, at Kansas State University in 2010. As director, he leads an international network for scientific research involving 15 US universities, 4 foreign universities, and various industry and foreign partners. In 2013 he was named a university distinguished professor, a lifelong title and the highest honor the university can bestow on its faculty.
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 vaccination 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, Richt and colleagues were the first to generate prion protein-deficient cattle that are healthy and resistant to prion diseases. In his influenza research, Richt’s laboratory was the first to establish a reverse genetics system for studying swine influenza virus 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, Richt and colleagues used the reconstructed 1918 influenza virus for experiments using the biosafety level-4 biocontainment facilities in Winnipeg, Canada.
At Kansas State University, 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.
Richt has authored or co-authored more than 170 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 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.
Richt can be contacted at 785-532-2793 or firstname.lastname@example.org.