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Role of Genes in Avian Flu Wins Top ARS Postdoc Award / November 14, 2000 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Role of Genes in Avian Flu Wins Top ARS Postdoc Award

By Sharon Durham
November 14, 2000

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2000--Agricultural Research Service veterinary medical officer David Suarez has won an ARS award for his research proposal to develop a system to remove a gene for avian influenza virus, modify it and reinsert it to study the virus’ ability to cause this serious poultry disease.

A few years ago, an ARS vaccine against a certain strain of avian influenza helped the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Hong Kong government contain and understand a bird flu epidemic. More

Suarez and his colleagues at the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens, Ga., study the role of viral genes in virulence and the ways in which mild avian viruses become highly pathogenic. The researchers’ goal is to develop better diagnostic tests and improved vaccines.

Suarez won the T.W. Edminster Award for the top-ranked proposal out of 50 proposals selected by the Agricultural Research Service for its 2001 Postdoctoral Research Associate Program. The program provides postdocs an opportunity to work closely with an experienced researcher in their field of interest. At the same time, postdocs get a chance to perform valuable research to help solve agricultural problems.

“The excellence of our researchers is evident by the number of extraordinary proposals submitted,” said ARS Administrator Floyd P. Horn. “The postdoctoral program helps us to direct funds toward critical research areas that focus on solving key agricultural problems.”

ARS has allocated $4 million to fund 50 projects selected from a list of 450 proposals. Each ARS scientist whose proposal was accepted will receive $80,000 to provide a two-year appointment to a postdoc for high-priority research.

Other winning proposals were from:

  • Jeffrey Buyer with ARS’ Soil Microbial Systems Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., to study the effects of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) transgenic corn on residue decomposition, manure composting and microbial ecology.
  • Richard Jones at ARS’ Vegetable Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., to apply a simplified marker gene system for transgenic potato detection and risk assessments.
  • Ralph Scorza with ARS’ Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, W.Va., to conduct an analysis of how genes are engineered to give plum pox virus resistance and how stable the resistance will be as the plant grows and produces fruit.

Contact: Edward B. Knipling, ARS Associate Administrator, Washington, D.C., phone (202) 720-3656, fax (202) 720-5427.

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