Peter Palese is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He is professor of microbiology and chair of the Department of Microbiology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. His research is in the area of RNA-containing viruses with a special emphasis on influenza viruses. Specifically, he established the first genetic maps for influenza A, B, and C viruses, identified the function of several viral genes, and defined the mechanism of neuraminidase inhibitors (which are now FDA-approved antivirals). He was also a pioneer in the field of reverse genetics for negative strand RNA viruses, which allows the introduction of site-specific mutations into the genomes of these viruses. This technique is crucial for the study of the structure and function relationships of viral genes, for investigation of viral pathogenicity, and for development and manufacture of novel vaccines. In addition, an improvement of the technique has been effectively used by him and his colleagues to reconstruct and study the pathogenicity of the highly virulent, but extinct, 1918 pandemic influenza virus. His recent work in collaboration with Garcia-Sastre has revealed that most negative strand RNA viruses possess proteins with interferon antagonist activity, enabling them to counteract the antiviral response of the infected host. At present, he serves on the editorial board for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Palese was president of the Harvey Society in 2004, president of the American Society for Virology in 2005, a recipient of the Robert Koch Prize in 2006, and a recipient of the European Virology Award (EVA) in 2010.
Richard Witter is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He served as a veterinary medical officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory (ADOL) in East Lansing, Michigan, for 38 years (1964–2002). He currently serves as collaborator with the ADOL and as adjunct professor with the Department of Pathobiology and Clinical Investigations at Michigan State University. He helped develop the first successful vaccine in the United States against Marek’s disease and has documented the evolution of this virus to greater virulence. He has received numerous awards and recognition for his research. For more than 22 years, as director and research leader of ADOL, he administered a multidisciplinary research program on the biology of important avian viral neoplasms, as well as programs on recombinant DNA vaccines, immunogenetics, transgenic chickens, and genome mapping. He returned to the bench in 1998, where he pursued research on Marek’s disease and avian leukosis until his retirement in 2002. He has been active in international activities involving grants programs in the Middle East and Central Asia. He helped initiate the ARS-Former Soviet Union Scientific Cooperation Program and has served as a scientific consultant to this program since its inception. He received his B.S. and D.V.M. from Michigan State University and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Cornell University.