March 25, 2004

Biosecurity expert Michael P. Martin joins SIUC

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Michael P. Martin, a veterinarian with expertise in poultry, preventive medicine and biosecurity, has joined Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Department of Animal Science, Food and Nutrition.

His presence should provide a shot in the arm for both the state's poultry business and the University's goal, as stated inSouthern@150, of becoming one of the country's top 75 public research schools by its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Biosecurity (the process of safeguarding the food supply from disease and taint) is currently a "hot" area in terms of research, Welch said."While the poultry industry isn't large in Illinois, it is a niche market -- who knows where it might go," said department head Patricia A. Welch. "And even now, though the industry is not large, raising poultry can help small farm owners supplement their income."

"While we have always been worried about contamination, it's been more of an issue since 9-11," she said. "Michael has already done work in this arena, and we believe he has the capability to do a lot more."

Martin earned both his veterinarian degree and a master's in preventive veterinary medicine at the University of California at Davis. He served an additional two years there as a poultry medicine resident, doing research for the poultry industry, vaccine developers and pharmaceutical companies and working with a commercial poultry research facility in San Francisco, where his involvement with biosecurity took off.

After his residency, he spent two years in the private sector as principal research scientist for Embrex Inc., an international firm that focuses on using biotechnology to improve bird health, and as director of research and development at ImmunoBiosciences Inc., a start-up company developing animal vaccines that would be more effective and safer -- even with very young animals -- than those now is use.

At Embrex, he helped set up the company's biosecurity committee and develop protective procedures after bird flu outbreaks threatened several nearby poultry farms. He also monitored both national and international biosecurity threats and worked with state veterinary and agricultural departments to counter them.

At SIUC, biosecurity will serve as his prime focus as he sets up his research program. While Welch planned initially to house that research in the University's old Poultry Center on the southwest edge of campus, both the center's age and its scheduled demolition to make room for new physical plant headquarters will soon have her scrambling for new space.

"If we want to be known for top-level research (one of the University's stated goals), we have to have a top-level facility," Welch said.

Faculty in other disciplines who want to do biosecurity research could use such a facility as well, Martin said.

In the meantime, Martin will focus on work that can be done in the field.

"It's always helpful to see what's practical and what works in the real world," he said