University of Wyoming Extension News

Internationally known scholar named Wyoming Excellence Chair in Prion Biology

A renowned scholar, with the research background to lead the University of Wyoming’s studies of chronic wasting disease and related animal and human disorders, is the newest endowed chair at UW.

Hermann Schatzl is the Wyoming Excellence Chair in Prion Biology. He will come to UW in January and will have a split appointment in the UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources departments of Veterinary Sciences and Molecular Biology. He is professor of clinical virology and head of the Clinical Virology Section at Technical University of Munich in Germany.

The 2006 Wyoming State Legislature established the Excellence in Higher Education Endowment, which included a $70 million endowment to create at UW senior faculty positions for highly distinguished scholars and educators. The legislation creating the endowment states the endowed positions must expand university instruction and research in disciplines related to economic and social challenges facing Wyoming.

The UW Wyoming Excellence chairs are nationally and internationally recognized leaders in their fields.

“Professor Schatzl is exactly the kind of internationally known scholar we had hoped we could attract to UW with funding and support from the Wyoming Excellence Endowment,” said Nicole Ballenger, UW associate provost. “With Schatzl here, UW has the potential to be an international center of excellence in prion disease biology, a frontier area of science and one that is extremely relevant to the state.”

Schatzl’s specialty is in the study of prions, the proteins that underlie chronic wasting disease (CWD) of deer and elk. This is the same class of protein that also causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) of cattle and scrapie in sheep.

“His scholarly reputation in the field of prion diseases will provide a solid foundation for ongoing and future research at UW to better understand these invariably fatal neurological diseases that affect humans as well as animals,” said Professor Don Montgomery, head of the Department of Veterinary Sciences. “Much is unknown concerning the prion diseases. Schatzl’s research will lead to a basic understanding of the mechanisms that underlie the prion diseases, some important to the state of Wyoming including scrapie and CWD.”

Schatzl’s research in the field of infectious neurodegenerative diseases is recognized internationally, specifically, diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies of humans and animals caused by abnormal prion proteins. These diseases include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, fatal familial insomnia, Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker disease and transmissible mink encephalopathy.

Between 1983-1989, Schatzl studied medicine at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. He received his medical degree (1991) from the Department of Virology at the Max von Pettenkofer Institute for Microbiology and Hygiene, Munich.

Schatzl pursued post-doctoral studies (1993-1995) in the laboratory of Nobel Prize Laureate Stanley Prusiner, known for his seminal work on abnormal prion proteins and the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

He has received grant support of more than EU 8 million, has published in many international scientific publications and books and has two patents related to his research work.

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