NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

RML Mourns Loss of Prion Disease Researcher Race

Dr. Rick Race
Dr. Rick Race

Dr. Richard “Rick” Race, a retired research veterinarian who studied infectious neurodegenerative diseases for more than 30 years at NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton, Mont., died of metastatic pancreatic cancer on Nov. 13. He was 78.

Born in Pueblo, Colo., he attended Colorado State University where he received a B.S. in 1968 and a doctorate in veterinary medicine in 1970. He found summer employment working for the Public Health Service (PHS) in Poolesville and Rockville, Md. In 1970, Race was recruited to RML and began his 37 year-long NIH career first as a veterinary officer (military captain) for the PHS Commissioned Corps and later as a research veterinarian.

At RML, Race studied prion diseases, infectious neurodegenerative diseases that include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or “mad cow disease”) in cattle. 

As a veterinarian, he had expertise in animal models of prion disease. In more than 100 research publications, he made seminal contributions to understanding prion pathogenesis in mink, sheep, cattle, deer and experimental mouse models. He discovered how sub-clinical infection can eventually lead to prions crossing species barriers, helped to derive new approaches to diagnosing prion disease and developed one of the first widely used, cell-based models of prion infection. 

Race’s proficiency in prion disease was extensive and he was instrumental in training many current RML prion researchers. His research legacy at RML is substantial and continues through the current prion research program in the Laboratory of Neurological Infections and Immunity.

Following retirement, Race enjoyed weekly lunches with friends from RML, twice-weekly golf games during the summer, catching fish through the ice in winter and watching the daily stock ticker tape.

Survived by wife Sally and children Brent and Lynn, as well as four grandchildren, he will be greatly missed by his family, friends and RML colleagues.

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