Veterinary Research News

Global News

Veterinarians sought for influenzarelated assignments abroad

U.S. Ambassador John E. Lange led a daylong one-medicine track focusing on emerging global animal health threats, July 16 at the AVMA Annual Convention in Washington, D.C. Ambassador Lange is the nation's special representative on avian and pandemic influenza and heads the State Department's Avian Influenza Action Group.

In September 2005, President Bush announced the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza. Its goal is to elevate the issue on national agendas and to coordinate efforts among donor and affected nations. All partners have endorsed a core set of principles focused on enhancing preparedness, prevention, response, and containment activities.

The international partnership has supported the training of 129,000 animal health workers. That has required engagement with governments and regional and international organizations such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization, World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and World Bank.

The ambassador said that more programs are under development to assist foreign countries in dealing with emerging and re-emerging threats.

Lange said, “The U.S. government and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization are looking to deploy veterinarians for temporary assignments abroad.

“I really congratulate you for your dedication to this and many other potential emerging diseases. I urge you to support all efforts to build a stronger bond between human and animal health professionals.”

The U.S. Agency for International Development, for example, is seeking veterinarians and other animal health experts for its project Stamping Out Pandemic and Avian Influenza. An independent federal government agency, USAID receives foreign policy guidance from the secretary of state and arranges missions that are usually bilateral. The agency is funding the STOP AI Expert Resource Network to seek consultants with international expertise for short- and long-term assignments that may include providing technical assistance to national governments. The focus will be on the animal health aspects of highly pathogenic avian influenza, but the project will also address human health. Veterinarians interested in being considered should send their curriculum vitae to

The Department of Agriculture is the lead technical and regulatory agency for the U.S. government's international efforts to combat the spread of HPAI. The department's International Coordination Group for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza recruits and deploys veterinary emergency management subject matter experts for temporary assignments. Usually, these USDA specialists support activities directly implemented by the ICG and by host countries. In some cases, however, the ICG loans experts to the FAO to support its multilateral activities. Gordon Cleveland is designated as the initial point of contact for AVMA members who wish to participate in ICG activities; e-mail him at

Research in Progress

FDA-CVM officials discuss research

Individualized medicine, or pharmacogenomics, is one area where Dr. Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine, predicts much progress. This field of research focuses on variations in the molecules that interact with medicines moving through the body. Dr. Sundlof and CVM Deputy Director Bernadette M. Dunham spoke with AVMA News recently about the agency's future directions and recent challenges.

“Whereas the human drugs and biological centers within the FDA really have the lead on (pharmacogenomics), a lot of the things they're learning about specific genes and their impact on disease and how drugs result in differences based on the genetic makeup of the person or the animal— all of that is going to come to the Center for Veterinary Medicine,” Dr. Sundlof said.

Of other technology, Dunham said, “A budding area that we are moving into more and more is biotechnology, and that's going to encompass a lot of the scenarios that will come from cloning and, potentially, transgenic animals.

“Nanotechnology is another portion of new technology which, down the road, will probably be impacting how some drugs are formulated and delivered.”

In all, approximately 75 veterinarians are on staff with the CVM, most of them working from Rockville, Md. These FDA veterinarians direct field staff— generalists who inspect facilities ranging from pet food companies to pharmaceutical production plants.

Several veterinarians are on staff at the CVM research office in Laurel, Md. The site is geared toward food animals and includes a surgical suite, necropsy facility, operating feed mill, and milking barn.

Research on a variety of fish is conducted at the aquaculture facility. One current project is related to the massive pet food recall earlier this year.

“One of the (fish studies) that we are conducting in response to the pet food outbreak is creating what we call incurred residues,” Dr. Sundlof said, “that is, feeding melamine, cyanuric acid, and other components to foodproducing animals, including fish, to see how and where that product accumulates and how rapidly it is eliminated.”

This research is important because during the pet food contamination, some of the recalled product was fed to food-producing animals.

At the CVM, expertise is needed to cover everything from premarket drug reviews to postmarket surveillance. Many FDA veterinarians have acquired additional skill sets that enhance their value to the agency, such as master's or PhD degrees or board certification.

MAF's equine genetic research under way

Recent funding has led to the beginning of phase one of the Morris Animal Foundation's Equine Consortium for Genetic Research.

The consortium is a five-year, $2.5 million project to rapidly advance equine health. Led by University of Minnesota professors Jim Mickelson, PhD, and Dr. Stephanie Valberg, the consortium includes 32 scientists from 18 academic institutions throughout nine countries.

The AAEP Foundation, including the Aringo Memorial Fund, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Keeneland Foundation, and individual donors all contributed to the funding of phase one.

As part of phase one, scientists will begin developing a unique set of research tools designed to lead to major advances in the health of horses worldwide.

The first of these research tools is single nucleotide polymorphism chips, which will allow researchers to define underlying genetic factors that influence highly heritable as well as common equine diseases. This will impact the health of horses as new ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease are developed. Also, the genetic information gained will serve as a valuable tool for managing breeding programs.

Dr. Valberg noted that the recent sequencing of the equine genome (see JAVMA, April 1, 2007, page 985) will mean major health breakthroughs for horses.

“An explosion of knowledge about human disease occurred after the human genome was sequenced in 2001. These rapid advances can now be paralleled in the horse with the sequencing of the equine genome in 2007 and the support of the Morris Animal Foundation equine consortium,” Dr. Valberg said.

“We are really excited to soon have the tools that will take the equine research community to the forefront of scientific discovery.”

News Updates

USDA initiates cost-benefit analysis of animal identification system

The Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has selected Kansas State University to lead a multi-institutional cost-benefit analysis of the National Animal Identification System.

Co-contributors Colorado State University and Michigan State University will assist in conducting the analysis. Montana State University will provide an assessment of the economic costs and benefits of the NAIS—including the three components of premises registration, animal identification, and animal tracing.

The analysis will encompass segments of the livestock industry such as small- and large-scale producers, marketing firms, processing facilities, and rendering operations. The costs and benefits of the NAIS will be examined across species. The analysts also will seek to determine the distribution of costs and benefits among producers of herds of various sizes, marketing firms, processors, consumers, and state and federal government agencies.

The NAIS is a voluntary federalstate-industry partnership with the purpose of helping producers respond to outbreaks of animal disease. Information is available at

Research Results

Treatment for glaucoma shows promise

Researchers at Iowa State University have developed a technique that successfully treated rats for blindness caused by glaucoma. Their experimental treatment will be used on dogs in the next year. If successful, it is expected to move to human trials.

Iowa State researchers leading the six-year project are Dr. Sinisa Grozdanic, assistant professor of veterinary clinical sciences; Donald Sakaguchi, PhD, neuroscientist and associate professor of genetics, development, and cell biology; and Matt Harper, doctoral student in neuroscience. The team also included researchers from the University of Iowa, Yale University, Tulane University, and University of Miami.

The researchers previously determined that in animals with glaucoma, production of proteins with neuron-protective capabilities is increased in an attempt to shield against blindness. So, they imitated that process in the laboratory, modifying bone marrow-derived stem cells. Then they transplanted the cells into the eyes.

A sophisticated computerized analysis of noninvasive measurements of optic nerve function and the retina's electrical activity showed dramatic improvement in the rats' visual functions after the procedure.

Grant Proposals Invited

Call for feline research proposals

The Morris Animal Foundation and the Winn Feline Foundation have each issued a call for feline research proposals.

The MAF has issued a call for preproposals that address important health issues of cats. The deadline for applications is Nov. 1.

According to the MAF, cats are taken to the veterinarian less frequently than dogs, less money is spent on their health care, and fewer scientists study cats than dogs. Each year, the MAF struggles with the shortage of proposals to study feline health problems. Of the 441 preproposals received for 2007 funding, 119 were for canine studies, while only 39 were for feline research. High-quality study proposals are vital to improving feline health.

The official call for preproposals, containing all application details, is available at

Also, the Winn Feline Foundation is calling for grant proposals for 2008. Studies applicable to all cats are encouraged. The foundation is also interested in projects that address problems in individual breeds. This year, the foundation has dedicated funds for research into mediastinal lymphoma, feline infectious peritonitis, and inherited hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

The application deadline is Dec. 3. The maximum grant amount is $15,000, and awards will be announced in March 2008. Multiyear proposals totaling more than $15,000 will not be considered. Additional funds may be available for breedrelated studies. For more information about grant requirements, contact the Winn Feline Foundation at (856) 447- 9787, or visit

PRRS Research Award program seeks proposals

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc. is again requesting research proposals for studies investigating porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome.

For the sixth year, the company will provide three $25,000 awards through its 2008 Advancement in PRRS Research Awards program to swine practitioners, diagnosticians, or researchers to investigate new ways to diagnose, control, and eradicate this costly swine disease.

An independent review board selects proposals on the basis of criteria that include economic impact on the swine industry, originality and scientific quality, and probability of success in completing the yearlong study.

The deadline for submitting proposals is Jan. 1, 2008. Submissions should include a cover sheet, a one-page curriculum vitae for each investigator, and two letters of recommendation. The mailing address is Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc., Attn.: Trudy Luther, The Advanced PRRS Research Award, 5506 Corporate Drive, Suite 1600, St. Joseph, MO 64507-7752.

More information is available by visiting, e-mailing, or calling (800) 821-7467, Ext. 2780.

From the AVMA

DeHaven hits the ground running

AVMA executive vice president, Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, introduced himself to AVMA staff Aug. 15 and talked about his priorities as the Association's top administrative officer. Dr. DeHaven, the former head of the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, officially succeeded Dr. Bruce W. Little on Aug. 9.

Dr. DeHaven said the experience of working at APHIS for 28 years has prepared him for his new job at the AVMA. “These two positions—as administrator of APHIS and now executive vice president of the AVMA—are very complementary in terms of large organizations with broad scope and responsibility,” he explained.

One of the challenges Dr. DeHaven faced as APHIS administrator was the variety of the agency's activities, ranging from ensuring the health of the nation's animals and plants to field testing genetically modified crops. “That's what made the job challenging, but it also made the job fun and exciting,” he said.

As executive vice president, Dr. DeHaven will put his primary focus on providing leadership in implementing the strategic planning goals for the Association endorsed by the Executive Board, he said. These goals entail the AVMA being a leading advocate for veterinary-related legislation, addressing critical shortages in the veterinary workforce, maintaining high-level accreditation standards for veterinary education, strengthening the profession's economic viability, and being the top proponent and resource for animal welfare.

Dr. DeHaven first heard the strategic plan during the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference this past January. “It's exactly where I think we need to be focusing our energies as a profession,” he said. “It represents a lot of foresight on the part of this Association and the Executive Board to identify those areas we need to be focusing on in the future.”

Education council schedules site visits

The AVMA Council on Education has scheduled site visits to schools/colleges of veterinary medicine at three institutions for the remainder of 2007.

Site visits are planned for Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Oct. 7-11; Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Oct. 20-25; and University of Utrecht Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, the Netherlands, Nov. 4-8.

The council welcomes written comments on these plans or the programs to be evaluated. Comments should be addressed to Dr. Elizabeth Sabin, Assistant Director, Education and Research Division, AVMA, 1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173-4360. Comments must be signed by the person submitting them to be considered.

The Veterinary Community

Phi Zeta presents research awards for 2007

Phi Zeta, the international honor society of veterinary medicine, recently presented two awards for research manuscripts.

Dr. Jennifer Buur received the 2007 Phi Zeta Research Award in the Basic Sciences Category. The Psi Chapter at North Carolina State University submitted Dr. Buur's manuscript “Use of probabilistic modeling within a physiologically based pharmacokinetic model to predict sulfamethazine residue withdrawal times in edible tissues in swine.”

Dr. D.M.W. Schaefer received the 2007 Phi Zeta Research Award in the Clinical Sciences Category. The Delta Chapter at The Ohio State University submitted Dr. Schaefer's manuscript “Quantification of plasma DNA as a prognostic indicator in canine lymphoid neoplasia.”

The awards comprise a plaque and a check in the amount of $750.

Phi Zeta has chapters at 28 U.S. veterinary colleges and at St. George's University in Grenada. Each chapter conducts a local competition and then submits its winning manuscript to the Phi Zeta Research Awards Committee. The senior author of the manuscript need not be a Phi Zeta member but must be a veterinarian who has participated in a graduate or residency training program within the past two years.

Students earn prizes for research projects

At its annual meeting in June, the Morris Animal Foundation announced the project winners of the Veterinary Student Scholars Program.

Twenty-three student scholars presented their projects at the meeting. Prizes of $5,000, $1,000, and $500 were given to the top three students in the companion animal and wildlife categories.

These prizes were in addition to the stipends awarded to the students as part of the scholars program. Launched in 2006, the program provides veterinary students an opportunity to become involved in veterinary research targeted at enhancing the health and well-being of companion animals and wildlife. The students devote a minimum of 50 percent of their time to the project for the equivalent of a 10- to 12-week period.

Of the projects presented this year, the top prize in the companion animal category went to Steven Friedenberg from Cornell University. Under the mentorship of Dr. Rory J. Todhunter, Friedenberg studied canine hip dysplasia and identified a potential genetic marker that may be linked to this disease.

The top prize in the wildlife category went to Sophie E. Knafo, a student at Tufts University who was mentored by Dr. Gretchen E. Kaufman. While in Kenya, Knafo studied disease transmission from domestic livestock to the endangered Grevy's zebra.

Second place in the companion animal category went to Cherlene Delgado at the University of Missouri-Columbia for her work on treating feline asthma. Third place went to Ashley Hill at Mississippi State University for her project on hyperelastosis cutis, also known as hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia, a genetic disease originating in Quarter Horses.

Second place in the wildlife category was presented to Larry J.B. Minter at North Carolina State University for his project on cryopreserving genetic material for use in assisted reproduction of wild species. Third place went to Laura Stokes-Greene at The Ohio State University for her work in studying infectious disease risks to the highly endangered Sumatran rhinoceros.