Roy Curtiss III
Hall of Honor

Roy Curtiss was born in New York City and moved to upstate New York soon thereafter to become involved in the Victory Garden Program to gain experience in vegetable growing, 4-H clubs and raising chickens leading to his early endeavors in avian genetics on cross breeding of White Plymouth Rock and White Cornish as a better broiler. He went to Cornell majoring in poultry husbandry, plant science and genetics and then onto to Brookhaven National Laboratory to engage in research on the genetics of phage P22 of Salmonella. Moving on to the University of Chicago, he attained his PhD working mechanisms of bacterial conjugation. He was recruited to the staff at Oak Ridge National Laboratory followed by the University of Tennessee, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Washington University in St. Louis, Arizona State University and finally the University of Florida. His research during his early career focused on establishing the molecular genetic bases for pathogenicity of Streptococcus mutans, Shigella flexneri, Mycobacterium leprae, Salmonella enterica, Escherichia coli pathovars and Bordetella avium. The Curtiss group developed biological containment first for cloned genes and then for recombinant attenuated pathogenic bacterial vaccines. The Curtiss lab developed the use of attenuated derivatives of Salmonella and Edwardsiella bacteria as vectors to deliver protective antigens encoded by genes from other pathogens. Dr. Curtiss also introduced use of transgenic plants as vaccine components and vectors. His lab was first to demonstrate that deletion of cya and crp and then phoP genes for global regulation rendered Salmonella attenuated but highly immunogenic. This led to the development of three APHIS-licensed vaccines to prevent Salmonella infection in broilers, laying hens and swine.

Most recently members of the Curtiss lab group have contributed major technical innovations to deliver protective antigens and DNA vaccines more effectively by self-destructing attenuated Salmonella vaccine vector strains to stimulate all three branches of the immune system. This includes development of multiple methods for regulated delayed attenuation and regulated delayed synthesis of protective antigens to better enable vaccine strains to retain wild-type attributes at time of oral needle-free immunization. This allows the vaccine to efficiently invade lymphoid tissues before displaying complete attenuation to preclude induction of disease symptoms. The net result is the synthesis and delivery of protective antigens to maximize induction of protective immunity. Safety of such vaccines and improvement of immunogenicity was achieved by developing the regulated delayed lysis in vivo attribute to confer complete biological containment and delivery of either protective antigens or DNA vaccines encoding them. This led to the first APHIS licensed genetically modified bacterial vectored vaccine to prevent Clostridium perfringens induced necrotic enteritis.
Curtiss has been recognized by receiving an Outstanding Alumni Award from Cornell and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Chicago. He was selected as the Lifetime Achievement Award Laureate of the American Society for Microbiology and as the Distinguished Microbiologist of the Year by the American College of Veterinary Microbiology. Dr. Curtiss is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Inventors, the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Disease, the St. Louis Academy of Sciences, the Arizona Arts, Science and Technology Academy and the Academy of Science, Medicine, and Engineering of Florida.

Roy’s wife Josephine Clark-Curtiss initiated the molecular genetic analyses of mycobacterial species. Roy has seven children, 13 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren – only one of whom became an accomplished scientist.