Linda F. Benedict, Enright, Frederick M.
For Fred Enright, working with animals has always been a part of his life. His father was a Louisiana cattle farmer and gave every family member cattle to care for. “It was interesting to have your own cattle at age 11,” Enright said.
What started as a huge responsibility became an aspiration. “I didn’t want to be a doctor, but a veterinarian,” Enright said.
“I had never considered the research or academic aspect of it. The real shock was my second year in vet school when I found myself interested in disease mechanisms.”
Enright went on to earn a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Oklahoma State University in 1970. Four years later he received his Ph.D. in pathology from the University of California at Davis.
In 1976, Doyle Chambers, Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station director at the time and also an animal scientist, offered Enright a job to combat bovine brucellosis, a disease that was devastating cattle herds by causing late-term abortions. Enright collaborated with other veterinarians along with cattle farmers in southwest Louisiana to develop and implement a management system for addressing the disease.
That effort led to Louisiana becoming a brucellosis-free state, ultimately saving millions of dollars in losses each year because of the disease, Enright said. Those techniques were modified and applied to livestock around the world.
“The current vaccine that’s used in the United States is RB51. LSU is the first place where we actually used the vaccine in cattle, and it worked,” Enright said.
Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas are the reservoir for brucellosis in the continental United States. The disease can spread from wildlife to livestock herds.
“Brucellosis is in bison and elk, which can’t be herded up and vaccinated like cattle, and so we’ve done a great deal of research in the application of vaccines for wildlife,” Enright said.
That important research has thrust the LSU AgCenter into a prominent national and international role.
In addition to other important work with diseases and vaccines, Enright teamed with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center for a project in 1999 that produced surprising results. While working on a specialized drug to sterilize cats and dogs, they discovered a compound that could combat major forms of cancer in humans.
Unlike chemotherapy, these compounds, through the action of membrane disrupting peptides (MDPs), seek and destroy cancer cells, without harming normal cells. This new technology was the basis for a startup biotechnology company, Esperance, which has already begun human trials with new drugs.
“We are very excited about that,” said Enright. “It just shows you how research can start off one way and end up another way.”
Enright has received numerous awards including the LSU School of Medicine Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award, the LSU AgCenter Diversity Initiative Award for Excellence, a Fulbright Scholar award for research in Argentina, and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. He also held the Doyle Chambers Distinguished Professorship.
He formally retired in 2010 and now embraces hobbies like fishing, turkey hunting and golf. But the veterinary pathologist is still there. Enright volunteers for research projects on deer disease and in the development of new vaccines for captive deer herds.
“It’s been a real interesting career. I still love it,” Enright said.
Randy LaBauve is an assistant communications specialist with LSU AgCenter Communications.
(This article was published in the fall 2012 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)