UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Suresh Kuchipudi, clinical professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, has been named Dorothy Foehr Huck and J. Lloyd Huck Chair in Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.
The Huck Institutes support interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research at Penn State by offering innovative graduate programs, operating shared core facilities, supporting strategic research initiatives through faculty co-hires and cluster hires, and operating the institutes' Centers of Excellence.
Board-certified in virology and immunology by the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists, Kuchipudi has extensive experience in infectious disease research, with a focus on the development of antivirals, diagnostic tests and viral vaccines. He noted that the overall goal of his research is to understand the mechanisms of how new epidemic or pandemic viral pathogens emerge and to translate this knowledge to develop innovative diagnostics and novel interventions.
"The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us again of the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to combat emerging infectious disease threats," said Kuchipudi, who also is associate director of Penn State's Animal Diagnostic Laboratory. "The Huck endowed chair provides additional resources to establish interdisciplinary collaborations and further develop our basic and translational research. It is a great privilege and honor to be part of the Huck Institutes, the powerhouse of research excellence in life sciences at Penn State."
Kuchipudi joined the Penn State faculty in 2015. He studies the potential for SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — to infect livestock, as well as the potential for Zika virus to infect poultry. He is a co-investigator on a project aimed at developing a COVID-19 vaccine that would use a modified adenovirus as a vector.
He also is a co-investigator on multiple projects designed to develop novel tools and sensors for rapid detection of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses. Most recently, he led a study that found that SARS-CoV-2 infects and spreads among white-tailed deer, a finding with implications for the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kuchipudi's research group has made advances in diagnosing many other animal and zoonotic diseases. His lab developed a novel probe-based PCR assay for avian coryza, allowing for rapid diagnosis of this bacterial disease that affects poultry. He also developed the first diagnostic test that can distinguish between virulent and benign strains of the swine bacterial pathogen known as "Strep zoo," which can cause severe illness and death in pigs, other animals and rarely people.
In addition, he has collaborated with other faculty members and Penn State Extension educators to develop swine health training programs for producers in anticipation of potential outbreaks of African swine fever or other diseases in Pennsylvania.
"Suresh's skills as a scientist and his vision for working across disciplinary boundaries have helped to forge collaborations within and outside of the University scientific community," said Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. "As the world gets smaller and pathogens evolve, this sort of interdisciplinary research will be critical in finding solutions for managing and, we hope, stopping future disease outbreaks before they reach pandemic scale."
Kuchipudi earned a bachelor of veterinary science and animal husbandry degree — equivalent to a U.S. doctor of veterinary medicine degree — in 1996 from Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad, India; a master of veterinary science in veterinary microbiology in 1999 from Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Chennai, India; a doctorate in virology in 2010 from the University of Glasgow, U.K.; and an MBA in 2021 from Penn State.
From 2009 to 2010, Kuchipudi was a research fellow in the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at the University of Nottingham, Leicestershire, U.K. He then spent five years there as an assistant professor of molecular virology and immunology before coming to Penn State. Previously, he was an assistant professor and head of clinical veterinary microbiology at S.V. Veterinary University, Tirupati, India, and a veterinary surgeon for the Department of Animal Husbandry in the government of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, India.
The Huck endowed chair will enable Kuchipudi to enhance his contributions to Penn State's work in infectious disease control and prevention, according to Sandeep Prabhu, professor of immunology and molecular toxicology and head of the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences. "We're pleased and gratified that the Huck Institutes value his leadership in addressing serious emerging threats to global health," he said.
Andrew Read, director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, said Huck's leaders are delighted to recognize Kuchipudi's expertise in emerging infectious diseases.
"His skill set is unique on campus and synergizes with our infectious disease community powerfully, as has been so apparent over the 18 months of the pandemic," Read said. "The Huck Institutes community looks forward to working with Suresh as we build our capacity to address the next pandemic, as well as the many epidemic and endemic diseases that will challenge us going forward."