2016 Roger L. Mitchell Fellow: Randall S. Prather
Randall Prather is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Mizzou chapter of the National Academy of Inventors. In 2011, he received the AgriScience Award from the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, and in 2002 was Popular Sciences' Medical Tech Grand Award Winner.
His research focuses on genetically engineering swine for production agriculture and biomedicine, and improving reproductive efficiency in domestic animals through developmental biology and reproductive physiology.
Prather's laboratory developed pigs born with cystic fibrosis – the first effective animal model to mimic the human condition and make the disease easier to study.
Most recently his research team and a colleague at Kansas State University bred pigs resistant to a devastating virus, Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), by knocking out a protein in their genetic code. PRRS has accounted for approximately $10 billion in losses for the U.S. pork industry in the last 20 years.
"Dr. Prather's research and creative activity in developing the technology and methods to create transgenic and now gene-edited animals to improve animal production and develop biomedical animals for the study and treatment of human disease certainly goes far beyond excellence in improving the health and well-being of mankind," said Rodney Geisert, professor of animal sciences. "For scientists to discover cures for human disease, which at this point have no known treatment, we must be able to create the suitable animal model that accurately replicates the human disease condition."
Cystic fibrosis is the most prevalent genetic mutation in adolescents in North America. Dr. Prather's laboratory developed the first genetically engineered pigs which express all the pathological conditions associated with cystic fibrosis. Dr. Prather altered genes in swine to study and find therapies for cardiovascular disease, retinitis pigmentosa and spinal muscle atrophy, which is the second leading cause of adolescent deaths in humans.
Rodney Geisert, professor of animal sciences