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April 20, 2023 – Dr. Mark L. Morris Jr., son of Foundation founders Mark L. Morris Sr. and Louise Weber Morris, played an important role in improving the lives of animals through health research. That work included expanding his father’s early Prescription Diet pet food line and diets for other animals, as well as educating generations of veterinarians on pet nutrition and health.

Dr. Morris Jr. also provided valuable lifelong leadership to Morris Animal Foundation. He served as Trustee, Vice President of Scientific Activities and Investment Committee Chair, helping grow the Foundation’s endowment. With his guidance, the Foundation became one of the world’s largest non-governmental, nonprofit organizations devoted to funding studies that would improve the health of animals.

To honor his animal health legacy, his wife, Bette Morris, Trustee Emeritus of the Foundation, established the Mark L. Morris Jr. Investigator Award. For the first award, Bette worked with Foundation leadership to convene a blue-ribbon panel comprised of cat and dog health researchers from across the country. Their goal was to identify the most pressing needs in animal health that would benefit from concentrated funding and support.

Since its inception, six exceptional researchers have received the Mark L. Morris Jr. Investigator Award:

North Carolina State University recently completed a multiyear study focused on understanding the genetics of canine mitral valve disease, the most common cause of heart disease in dogs. Findings from her study opened up novel avenues of research and new genetic insights into the disease.

University of Pennsylvania is conducting a study on how chronic inflammation affects cognition, behavior and the overall health of senior cats.

North Carolina State University is conducting a clinical trial to assess if exercise can improve frailty and health in elderly dogs.

Vaika Inc. is investigating genetically programmed aging “clocks” and anti-aging strategies in retired sled dogs.

University of Wisconsin-Madison is looking at the effects of toxic heavy metal burden on cognition and sensory decline in older dogs.

Colorado State University is studying age-associated inflammation and links to disease in aging dogs.

As the Foundation celebrates its 75th Anniversary, a debt of gratitude goes to Bette Morris and the legacy of Dr. Mark L. Morris Jr. to continuously improve the lives of animals around the world through this special award.