COLLEGE STATION – Dr. Tri Duong, who has joined Texas AgriLife Research in College Station as a microbiologist in poultry science, has ambitions both in science and evangelizing the importance of science as a professional career, he said.
Duong said his research focuses on both human health and animal agriculture, particularly how science can impact both in a beneficial way. For example, he does cutting-edge work in developing an oral anthrax vaccine administered by eating yogurt instead of traditional innoculation.
“This experimental vaccine has been developed with the Army for testing in mice and it could be used for humans,” he said. “Right now, you go to the doctor and get a shot. There are questions of auto-immunity; you have to train medical staff to administer the vaccine; you have the production aspect of it. It’s expensive. If you can grow it in yogurt, you’ve taken care of production, storage and delivery.”
Duong will be working with fellow researcher Dr. Jason Lee in the poultry science department.
“Our research program seeks to understand the role of gastrointestinal microflora on human and animal health, and nutrition and food safety, with a focus on the use of probiotic microorganisms in agriculture and health care,” he said.
Probiotics have a long list of recognized benefits, but perhaps the most well-recognized are improved digestive and immune health, he said.
“Recently, the development of molecular genetic tools and advances in genomics have improved our understanding of the functionality of these organisms and given us the ability to manipulate them for our benefit,” he said. “Using our understanding of these organisms and their physiology, one area we hope to focus on is the development of probiotic strains for the oral delivery of vaccines and bio-therapeutics.”
Regarding agriculture, particularly the poultry industry, Duong says improved feed efficiency and nutrition are important.
“Feed costs are going through the roof right now,” he said. “Many components of feedstuffs are undigestible and by supplementing with the right probiotics we could improve nutrient utilization. Obviously, this type of discovery would help improve margins throughout the industry.”
Duong said he is an evangelist for science and wants to recruit more youth to the field.
“Scientific innovation will be of critical importance if we want the U.S. to remain a world leader,” he said. “We need to encourage young people to be interested in science, find a way to make it popular again like it was back in the1950s when man first went into space.”
Duong received his doctorate in functional genomics from North Carolina State University.