From scientific evidence to practical solutions

Renate Weller College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

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 Drvetmed, PhD, MScVetEd
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Herman Schaetzl College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

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 MD, Drmed, PhD
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John Gilleard College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

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 BVSc, PhD, DipACVM, DipEVPC, FCAHS, FRCVS

The University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM), established in 2005, conducts cutting-edge basic, translational, and clinical research across the range of veterinary and comparative biomedical sciences. UCVM is a key player in the university’s cross-cutting research theme of One Health and our areas of strength include research in infectious diseases, regenerative and reproductive medicine, cattle health, wildlife health and ecology, pain, and animal welfare.

UCVM also shares space with the Cumming School of Medicine. Our close proximity allows sharing state-of-the-art research infrastructure, and close collaboration with other faculties, especially the Faculties of Medicine, Engineering, Science and Kinesiology. This transdisciplinary and multifaculty approach enables cutting-edge interdisciplinary team research and high external funding success. The faculty has 5 prestigious Canada Research Chairs and 5 endowed or industrial chairs. A $44-million 1,000-head working ranch provides a unique living laboratory for real-scale research on production animals at the interface of wildlife and ecosystem health research. Some recent highlights of our research program include the following:

From basic research in regenerative medicine to cell therapy-based translation

In 2022, UCVM was awarded a multimillion infrastructure grant by the Canada Foundation for Innovation for the creation of the “Centre for Cell Therapy Translation.” This new facility is unique to Canada and is based on the research success of UCVM’s multidisciplinary program in regenerative medicine. This program has made seminal discoveries in how immune cells contribute to tissue regeneration and how dermal stem cells are activated following an injury. Existing infrastructure for large animal surgery and housing was used to create this center that will enable rigorous evaluation of cell-based or pharmacological regenerative therapies in large animals. This provides researchers with a lab setting to test new treatments on animals that better represent humans before testing them in a clinical setting. These include treatments for osteoarthritis, cardiac disease, diabetes, and wound healing. The center is complemented by the “Wild Microbiome and Immunity Centre,” another 2022 infrastructure investment of $12.1 million, operated by the faculties of medicine and veterinary medicine, which uses synergies in transcriptomics, advanced microscopy, and cell sorting.

A One-Health approach to improve animal and human health in the Arctic

A prestigious Canada Research Chair (Tier I) in Arctic One Health was awarded to UCVM to use a One-Health approach to improve animal and human health in the Arctic. Climate change is altering disease diversity and dynamics in arctic wildlife, exacerbating food insecurity through wildlife population decline and contributing to an increase in zoonotic diseases. Addressing complex effects of health determinants for wildlife and the consequences for human health in a rapidly changing Arctic requires a holistic and interdisciplinary approach. The overall goal of the UCVM research team is to understand, monitor, predict, and reduce the negative impacts of climate and other changes on wildlife health and Indigenous health in the Arctic. This is done by partnering with Northern communities and agencies to understand the health of domestic and wild animals and to mitigate threats to animal and human health, food safety and security. Methods include targeted field surveillance, community-based monitoring, and traditional knowledge, complemented by laboratory-based research and education and capacity building on site.

Cutting-edge infectious disease research from parasites to prions

UCVM is heavily engaged in the university’s new cross-cutting research theme of One Health, which focuses on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), healthy water ecosystems, and infectious diseases. This area has recently been strengthened by a new CRC chair (Tier II) in AMR and One Health recruited in 2022. UCVM research programs cover a broad spectrum of infectious diseases of food-producing animals including Johne disease, digital dermatitis, mastitis, respiratory viruses and ruminant gastrointestinal nematodes. Recently, the infectious disease area was awarded a multimillion dollar grant for the Calgary Prion Research Unit to develop transdisciplinary mitigation strategies for chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal prion disease of wild and farmed cervids that is expanding in North America. The goal of this multi-institutional initiative is to develop comprehensive strategies to stop the spread of CWD, including oral vaccine development, environmental decontamination, and genetic resistance, complemented by community consultation on acceptance of such measures.

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