A Unique Honor

Trio of animal sciences researchers honored with inventor award

A trio of researchers in the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ Division of Animal Sciences were recently honored with one of the more unique awards in their respective careers.

Randy Prather, Kevin Wells and Kristin Whitworth were invited to the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis (BAMSL) in mid-August to receive the Inventor of the Year award in the established company category. The honor was for the group’s work with PRRS-resistant pigs.

“We have a great group; a great team,” Prather said. “We all contribute in different ways, and it’s always very nice for people to recognize that you’ve had accomplishments.”

BAMSL helps lawyers and other legal professionals in the metropolitan St. Louis area to better themselves in a variety of ways. Each year they honor inventors who have made strides in their respective fields. Patent lawyers submit the nominations, and Elizabeth Millard, who is the attorney on the PRRS-resistant pigs patent, nominated the MU researchers for the award.

Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) is one of the most economically important diseases of swine. Prather, a Curators and Distinguished Professor of Reproductive Biotechnology in the Division of Animal Sciences, first heard about the PRRS virus in 1989. His lab has continued to research the virus with the help of Whitworth, a research scientist in Prather’s lab, and Wells, an associate professor in the Division of Animal Sciences.

The group was able to share an in-depth look at all they do during the award ceremony in St. Louis.

“They had a little extra time for us to talk,” Prather said. “I was able to talk more in-depth about the National Swine Resource and Research Center, as well as PRRS. Kristin and Kevin were also able to share their work. We just turned it into a big question-and-answer session, and we got a lot of great questions.

“We had a lot of time to talk about biomedical models, too, and the applications to agriculture and how important it is. The agriculture applications aren’t just about the bottom line. It’s about animal welfare, food security, sustainability, and the psychological and emotional health of our producers.”

The BAMSL Inventor of the Year award was one of a few big honors for Prather, Whitworth and Wells. In October 2018, the National Swine Resource and Research Center received $7.3 million for continued operation of the Center. Just a few months ago, Wells received an $8.6 million federal grant for new biomedical research center.

“Things are going really well,” Prather said.