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USDA Research Agency Awards Scientists for Technology Transfer

By Kathryn Barry Stelljes
February 8, 2000

BELTSVILLE, Md., Feb. 8--Two teams that developed tools to improve farm animal health, including a vaccine for catfish and diagnostic methods for three livestock diseases, will receive 1999's highest award for technology transfer from the Agricultural Research Service.

ARS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency, will honor scientists who developed these and other important technologies in a ceremony Feb. 9 at the agency's Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center. There, ARS Administrator Floyd P. Horn will present the two top research teams with plaques and cash awards for outstanding technology transfer efforts.

ARS microbiologist Phillip H. Klesiusand ARS molecular biologist Craig A. Shoemaker developed a vaccine against the bacterial disease enteric septicemia of catfish (ESC). ARS microbiologist Katherine I. O’Rourke and ARS veterinary medical officer Donald P. Knowles created novel diagnostic tools for sheep scrapie, bovine anaplasmosis and equine piroplasmosis.

The awards event, begun in 1986, "allows us to acknowledge exceptional efforts in moving research from the laboratory to the users," said Horn.

Read: article on catfish vaccine in Agricultural Research

Klesius and Shoemaker work at the ARS Aquatic Animal Health Research Laboratory in Auburn, Ala. Their vaccine--the first modified live fish vaccine to be approved--reduced catfish mortality by 80 percent in tests and should save farmers as much as $60 million a year in losses. Intervet, Inc., Millsboro, Del., has licensed the vaccine, which is commercially available.

"This vaccine will reduce antibiotic use and provide a more cost-effective way for the industry to raise healthy fish for consumers," Horn said.

Read: article on scrapie test in Agricultural Research.

Knowles and O’Rourke work at ARS’ Animal Disease Research Unit in Pullman, Wash. O’Rourke led the team that invented the first non-invasive, preclinical diagnostic procedure for scrapie in live animals, as well as sophisticated molecular tests to diagnose scrapie. Scrapie is a fatal neurological disease in sheep and goats. Knowles developed the most accurate tests available for anaplasmosis in cattle and piroplasmosis--also known as equine babesiosis--in horses.

The methods are undergoing further scientific validation. ARS has applied for patents on all the tests, and they are available for licensing.

"These tests give regulators and producers an accurate way to diagnose these important diseases," said Horn. "In addition to paving the way for treatment, these tests will bring science to bear on regulations that govern the international movement of animals and animal products."

At the Feb. 9 ceremony, ARS will also present individual or team awards for other significant contributions in technology transfer. The recipients are:

  • ARS microbiologist John W. Doran, Soil and Water Conservation Research Unit, Lincoln, Neb. Doran created a field kit to help farmers and conservation specialists monitor soil health and productivity. He also helped USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service produce a soil assessment training manual.
  • ARS zoologist H. Ray Gamble, Parasite Biology and Epidemiology Laboratory, Beltsville, Md. Gamble developed and implemented pre- and post-harvest certification systems to verify the safety of pork products for both domestic and export markets.

Read: article on this research.

  • ARS agricultural engineer Bailey W. Mitchell, Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory, Athens, Ga. He invented an electrostatic space charge system with a private company to reduce airborne dust and disease-causing microorganisms by at least 80 percent.
  • ARS agricultural engineer Thomas C. Pearson and ARS chemist Thomas F. Schatzki, Cereal Product Utilization Research Unit, Western Regional Research Center, Albany, Calif. Pearson and Schatzki developed new identification and sorting technologies to help producers ensure that tree nuts reaching consumers do not harbor aflatoxin.


  • NP-PET, a team of seven scientists and numerous industrial and private partners led by ARS agricultural engineer Terry A. Howell, Water Management Research Unit, Conservation and Production Research Laboratory, Bushland, Texas. This Northern Plains Potential Evapotranspiration Project promotes water conservation by providing real-time, remote environmental data including information about water use from six major irrigated crops grown in the region. The network was used by over 325 growers, consultants and others in 1998.

Read: article on Areawide IPM

  • The Areawide Integrated Pest Management Project for Corn Rootworm, a team of 23 ARS and university scientists working in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas. The team pioneered USDA’s areawide IPM project against corn pests and relies on an aromatic beetle lure and trap as well as other technology. Their work could save farmers up to $1 billion during a year of heavy infestation.

Contact: Richard M. Parry, Jr., ARS Office of Technology Transfer, Washington, D.C. phone (202) 720-3973, fax (202) 720-7549,