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Andrew Read named Eberly Professor in Biotechnology

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09 February 2015
Andrew Read

Andrew F. Read, Evan Pugh Professor of Biology and Entomology, has been named the Eberly Professor in Biotechnology at Penn State. Read is the director of Penn State's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics. He perhaps is best known for his research on how natural selection shapes the virulence of malaria and how the "unnatural" selection imposed by medicine shapes the evolution of disease-causing organisms. This evolution causes drugs to fail and can create "super-bugs" that are resistant to pharmaceuticals. Because evolutionary responses to drugs, insecticides, and vaccines are the main causes of problems in preventing and treating infectious diseases, Read's research, which provides an improved understanding of pathogen evolution, can be used to inform public-health decisions.

Read also is working to generate evolution-proof anti-malaria technology. He and Penn State's Matthew Thomas, Professor and Huck Scholar in Ecological Entomology, discovered that fungal biopesticides used against locusts also could be used against mosquitoes. These biopesticides significantly reduced malaria transmission in the lab. Read is interested in discovering ways to exploit the evolutionary theory of aging to avoid the evolution of biopesticide-resistant mosquitoes.

Read was named an Evan Pugh Professor, the highest honor that Penn State bestows on a faculty member, in 2014. He was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2012. Honors for his research achievements also include an Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin fellowship in 2006, a Royal Society of Edinburgh fellowship in 2003, and a scientific medal from the Zoological Society of London in 1999.

He has served on the scientific advisory boards of the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Evolutionary Research and the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Cambridge, as well as on other international scientific committees. He currently serves on the editorial boards of Trends in Ecology and Evolution and Evolutionary Applications and he is a senior editor of the journal Evolutionary Medicine and Public Health. Read has coauthored more than 190 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals such as Science, Nature, PLoS Biology, Evolution, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Before joining Penn State in 2007, Read was at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, where he was the 13th Professor of Natural History, an endowed chair established in 1767. He was an adjunct professor in evolutionary ecology at the University of Tromsø in Norway from 1992 to 1997, and a lecturer in zoology at St. Catherine's College at Oxford University in the United Kingdom from 1989 to 1990. He earned a doctoral degree in evolutionary biology at the University of Oxford in 1989 and a bachelor's degree with honors in zoology at the University of Otago in New Zealand in 1984.

As part of his appointment as Eberly Professor in Biotechnology, Read will receive research funds from an endowment given to Penn State by the Eberly Family Trust. In 1986, the Eberly Family Trust gave $10 million to create a professorship in biotechnology, to establish a chair in each department in the Eberly College of Science, and to provide funding for the Hobby-Eberly Telescope.


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