J. Glenn Morris Jr. named director of UF Emerging Pathogens Institute
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Dr. J. Glenn Morris Jr., an internationally recognized public health scientist, has been appointed director of the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute.
Morris, professor and chairman of the department of epidemiology and preventive medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and interim dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Health, will lead a campuswide effort to anticipate, understand and control the emergence of new, disease-causing microorganisms.
“We are delighted that a scientist with Dr. Morris’ credentials has accepted our offer to lead the unique talent at the University of Florida in addressing this important health issue,” said Win Phillips, UF’s vice president for research. “UF already has top scientists in this field, but we anticipate being able to develop even more effective solutions by bringing together scientists from multiple disciplines in unique collaborations.”
Morris said he is looking forward to joining the University of Florida team working to fight emerging pathogens.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity and I’m looking forward to working with my new colleagues to do some great things,” Morris said. “Florida has laid the groundwork for a world-class institute in this critically important area, and created a setting in which we can form the multidisciplinary teams that are essential to deal with new infectious agents — in humans, animals and plants — as they arise.”
Morris, 55, received his bachelor’s degree from Rice University in Houston and his medical degree and a master’s in public health and tropical medicine from Tulane University in New Orleans. He maintains an active, National Institutes of Health-funded research program working in the area of molecular genetics and molecular epidemiology.
“Glenn truly is one of the greatest minds in emerging pathogens today, really a top performer in his discipline,” UF President Bernie Machen said. “His talent and the amazing research team we already have in place puts UF’s emerging pathogens program on the fast track.”
Hundreds of UF researchers on campus and at research centers throughout the state are already working with plant, animal and human disease-causing microorganisms. Citrus canker and West Nile Virus are just two examples of emerging pathogens that have affected Florida’s public health and economy.
UF researchers began developing the framework for the Emerging Pathogens Institute last year. Since then, the university has secured state funding for an approximately 100,000-square-foot building to house the institute and hired several top researchers.
Morris began his career at the Centers for Disease Control, where he focused on cholera and other water- and food-borne diseases. He has served on numerous National Academy of Sciences food safety committees and was part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture team that helped rewrite the nation’s food inspection regulations.
Morris’ recent research has included work with viruses known as bacteriophages that invade bacterial cells and cause bacteria to self-destruct. Bacteriophages are re-emerging as an alternative to antibiotics for treating infection because specific phages can be used to attack specific bacteria and bacteria are less likely to develop resistance to them.