Vetmeduni Vienna: Prestigious distinction for poultry expert Michael Hess from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna

The Robert Fraser Gordon Memorial Trust has chosen Michael Hess, head of the Clinical Unit for Poultry Medicine at the Vetmeduni Vienna, for this year’s edition of the renowned Robert F. Gordon Memorial Lecture and honoured him with the R. F. Gordon Memorial Medal. This internationally recognised distinction of researchers from all fields of poultry science was awarded at the annual conference of the UK branch of the World’s Poultry Science Association (WPSA) in Chester, England, which took place on April 6–7, 2016.

The Robert Fraser Gordon Memorial Lecture has been given every year since 1983 to honour its name giver. It is a prestigious distinction for researchers in the field of poultry science. Every year, the Robert F. Gordon Memorial Trust chooses a person ”who has made distinguished contributions to a branch of poultry science”. In 2016, the Trustees decided for Michael Hess, head of the Clinical Unit for Poultry Medicine at the Vetmeduni Vienna. He thus joins the ranks of renowned scientists and was honoured for his research up to now in front of an international expert audience.

Lecture about important considerations on the reproduction of diseases
The lecture and the award ceremony took place at the conference of the UK branch of the World’s Poultry Science Association on April 6–7, 2016, at the University of Chester, England. Hess talked about “Commensal or pathogen in chickens – a challenge to fulfil Koch’s postulates”. Using the example of selected pathogens, he discussed fundamental reflections and new findings which have to be considered when experiments reproduce diseases and certain symptoms in animals.

Research focus poultry pathogens
In order to fulfil Koch’s postulates, a variety of influences has to be considered for the reproduction of diseases, especially if they are caused by endemic pathogens. These influences are often summed up as “host-pathogen interaction”. Findings about the interaction of pathogens and hosts are essential in order to develop new strategies to combat diseases. The aim is to cover all aspects from the clinical picture to the in vitro cultivation and characterisation of the pathogen up to the reproduction of the disease in animal experiments. Hess’ scientific focus is on different poultry pathogens such as parasites like Histomonas meleagridis that causes blackhead disease and viral pathogens like avian adenoviruses.

About Michael Hess
Award winner Michael Hess grew up on a farm in a small village at the Rhine Valley near Strasbourg and has been a professor and head of the Clinical Unit for Poultry Medicine at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, since 2001. Furthermore, he heads the Department for Farm Animals and Veterinary Public Health at the campus. In 2014, he started a Christian Doppler Laboratory for Innovative Poultry Vaccines. Hess’ research is funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), the EU and Austrian ministries.

The clinic and the associated laboratories are accredited according to EC17025 and offer a broad range of diagnostic services, including pathological and molecular examinations. In this context, the clinic also established the first performance-guided ring test to compare and evaluate specific PCR tests for poultry pathogens.

About Robert Fraser Gordon
The name giver of the award, Robert Fraser Gordon, was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. He was not only a veterinarian, but also a zoologist and geologist. In 1948, the passionate scientist founded a research station specialising in poultry and poultry diseases on behalf of the Animal Health Trust. This branch of animal production was new at this time and would later become a central topic in agriculture. In 1972, Robert F. Gordon was raised to the rank of a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his commitment. One year after his death, in 1982, the Gordon Memorial Trust was founded in his honour. The medal all awardees get shows Gordon’s portrait on one side and, a cock and a hen on the other one together with Houghton Grange, the former research station.

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