Linda Benedict, Richard Bogren | 10/12/2015 5:51:30 AM
After Richard Cooper earned his bachelor’s degree in biology, he knew he wanted to do research. During his master’s studies at Mississippi State University, he took an intensive class in fish diseases. “I fell in love with it,” he said of the research. That spurred a move to the University of Georgia to pursue a Ph.D. in microbiology.
Doctorate degree in hand, he came to the LSU AgCenter in 1991 and began working with live attenuated bacterial vaccines for catfish. But with strong encouragement from Fred Enright, who was head of the Department of Veterinary Science, Cooper changed his focus to developing disease-resistant catfish.
Cooper’s work with fish resulted in a DNA delivery system that created disease-resistant fish. “We may have been the first lab to move a gene from one organism to another organism and have it under control of the recipient’s immune system,” Cooper said. “The success rate in the gene transfer was more than 70 percent – significantly higher than anybody else at the time.”
The gene-delivery technique Cooper developed with catfish led him to moving genes into chickens. That led to two patents and the eventual meeting with Bill Fioretti, of Dallas, who helped establish TransGenRx as a viable company for using chickens to produce components of human drugs.
Cooper is pleased the AgCenter gave him the freedom to develop his technologies and pursue the path to commercialization. He is confident TransGenRx will contribute significant royalty income to the AgCenter soon. Go to www.tgrxinc.com.
Rick Bogren is a professor and science writer with LSU AgCenter Communications.
(This article was published in the fall 2012 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)