CSU veterinarian and pioneer in feline leukemia named to prestigious National Academy of Sciences

Note to Reporters: Photos of Edward Hoover are available by contacting Tony Phifer at Tony.Phifer@colostate.edu.

Dr. Edward A. Hoover, a Colorado State University veterinarian and infectious-disease authority who developed the first successful and most widely used vaccine against feline leukemia, has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

Hoover is the ninth CSU faculty member elected to one of the National Academies; two others, like Hoover, represent CSU’s scientific strength in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He is one of 84 new members elected to the Academy, which recognizes “distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.”

“It’s quite an honor to be considered in this way,” Hoover said, after learning of his election Tuesday morning. “It is surprising and humbling. My first thought was, ‘I’m sure there’s a mistake, but I’m afraid to let them know.’”

Hoover, an eminent faculty member in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology, developed the FeLV vaccine, now used to immunize cats worldwide against leukemia-causing retrovirus. In addition to studying disease prevention, Hoover has investigated transmission pathways and ways to identify at-risk cats, improving understanding of diseases and their management within populations.

“It’s a true distinction to have a research scientist of Dr. Hoover’s caliber on our campus and in our college,” said Dr. Mark Stetter, a veterinarian and dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “His work with the feline leukemia vaccine is improving the health of pets around the world, and this same research has helped in the development of important human vaccines. He exemplifies CSU’s leadership in understanding infectious diseases and their implications for global human, animal, and environmental health.”

Hoover more recently has leveraged his formidable knowledge of infectious disease into the realm of what causes illnesses like chronic wasting disease. He studies prions, which are misfolded proteins that trigger neurodegeneration and death. In addition to chronic wasting disease in deer, prion diseases include bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease; scrapie, which affects sheep; and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the fatal prion disorder seen in humans.

In 2006, Hoover and colleagues were the first to explain how chronic wasting disease, which has devastated deer herds first in northern Colorado and now across the country, is transmitted through the shedding of prions in blood, urine and saliva. This has opened the door to a new wave of scientific investigation into prion diseases and similarities to fatal neurodegenerative diseases in people.

“Colorado State University is enormously proud of Dr. Hoover’s induction into the National Academy of Sciences,” CSU President Tony Frank said. “His pioneering work on the feline leukemia virus and chronic wasting disease has transformed our understanding of how disease spreads among populations — and how we can slow that spread in the interest of public and animal health. At CSU and across the country, he’s had a profound impact as a scholar, innovator and educator, and this is an outstanding acknowledgment of an outstanding career.”

Hoover’s nomination was sponsored by National Academy of Sciences member Barry Beaty, a CSU professor of microbiology, immunology, and pathology and a University Distinguished Professor. Only members of the Academy may nominate someone, and elections are conducted at the Academy’s annual meeting.

Hoover also oversees the university’s combined D.V.M. and Ph.D. program that prepares future scientists for globally significant research and discoveries.

Among numerous honors, Hoover is a University Distinguished Professor, and in 2012 he received the Merial-Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Excellence in Research Award. The honor was conferred for innovations spanning more than 30 years in the field of pathology and in the study of infectious diseases, primarily feline leukemia and chronic wasting disease.

The new election brings the total number of active members in the National Academy of Sciences to 2,214. The Academy is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and — with the National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council — provides science, technology, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

The other CSU faculty who have been elected to a National Academy are Beaty; Bruce Ellingwood, professor of civil and environmental engineering; Marshall Fixman, professor of chemistry and a University Distinguished Professor Emeritus; Albert Meyers, John K. Stille Professor of Chemistry and University Distinguished Professor Emeritus; Larry Roesner, professor of civil and environmental engineering; A.R. Ravishankara, professor of chemistry; George Seidel Jr., professor of biomedical sciences and a University Distinguished Professor Emeritus; and Thomas Vonder Haar, professor of atmospheric science and University Distinguished Professor.

A full list of those elected to the Academy this spring is available at http://www.nasonline.org/news-and-multimedia/news/april-29-2014-NAS-Election.html.