Dr. Richard L. Witter is retired from employment with the Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory (ADOL), U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), at East Lansing, Michigan.

Dr. Witter, a native of Orono, Maine, attended Michigan State University where he received the B.S. degree in 1958 and D.V.M. degree in 1960 and Cornell University where he received the M.S. degree in 1962 and Ph.D. degree in 1964.

Since 1964, Dr. Witter has been employed as a veterinary medical officer with ADOL. During his career, he has conducted research on Marek’s disease (MD), avian leukosis, and reticuloendotheliosis ? the principal viral neoplastic diseases of chickens and turkeys. He is known for his work on MD vaccines and the evolution of MD virus to greater virulence. He has been a frequent speaker at technical conferences in the United States and other countries. He has received numerous awards and recognition for his research. He was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 1998.

For over 22 years as director and research leader of ADOL, Dr. Witter administered a multidisciplinary research program on the biology of important avian viral neoplasms, as well as programs on recombinant DNA vaccines, immunogenetics, transgenic chickens, and genome mapping. He returned to the bench in 1998 where he pursued his personal research on Marek?s disease and avian leukosis until his retirement in 2002.

In retirement, he continues to be active in scientific and professional endeavors and serves both as a Collaborator with the ADOL and as adjunct professor with the Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation, College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University. He has promoted the advancement of science in the Middle East and Central Asia through USAID and ARS grant programs. He has served on several National Research Council committees dealing with scientific cooperation between the United States and Russia. He is an active member of the History Committee of the American Association of Avian Pathologists.

Research Interests

My research interests lie in the epidemiology, pathogenesis, and control of viral neoplastic diseases of poultry. The diseases of principal interest are Marek's disease, reticuloendotheliosis, and avian leukosis (lymphoid and myeloid). Consequently, I have developed expertise in applied herpesvirology and retrovirology. I have a major interest in vaccine development and viral strain evolution in Marek's disease, including the study of synergism among different viral strains, which is the basis for polyvalent vaccines. I have collaborated in studies to evaluate effects of host genes on disease and on pathogen-derived resistance. In addition to efforts on the biological evaluation of viral pathogenesis, I have initiated work on the epidemiology of subgroup J avian leukosis virus with the intent of discovering knowledge critical to eradication programs being conducted by primary breeders of commercial meat-type chickens. Much of my work is focused on the disease and on appropriate animal systems to study disease manifestations. I have reported on several novel disease manifestations in Marek's disease and reticuloendotheliosis. All this is done to generate information of value for the control of infectious diseases and improvement of product quality in poultry.

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Section 61: Animal, Nutritional, and Applied Microbial Sciences