Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine Welcomes New Animal Health and Agro / Bio-Defense Program


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Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine houses the new animal health and agro- / bio-defense program, or AHAD, thanks to funding from the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, or USDA-ARS.

Auburn’s initial funding is $ 647,529, with planned funding of over $ 2.5 million over the next five years. The partnership is made possible through a non-assistance cooperative agreement with the USDA-ARS.

The program will complement and expand the impact of ongoing work in this area as a new element in the nationwide network of U.S. government agencies and land granting universities, focusing primarily on diseases affecting economically important domestic animals that pose a threat to public health or impact national security and economic stability at local, national and global levels.

According to Dr. Frank “Skip” Bartol, former professor and associate dean for research and graduate studies at the College of Veterinary Medicine, who heads AHAD with Dr. Paul Walz, head of the Department of Pathobiology, Auburn’s AHAD program will be positioned to serve as a southern regional node in the Coalition for Epi Response Engagement Science, or CERES, which now includes primarily universities in the Midwest and West.

Initially, research in the AHAD space will involve a collaborative partnership with USDA-ARS scientists across the United States National Poultry Research Center in Athens, Georgia. This will allow subject matter experts at Auburn to benefit from the expertise of their peers in the federal space and allow access to state-of-the-art Level 3 biosecurity facilities needed to safely advance animal health solutions. and agro- / bio -the challenges of defense.

The AHAD / ARS partnership will advance the education and training of next-generation scientists, addressing a critical need in this important area, according to Bartol.

The newly created AHAD program complements and extends the advanced continuing education of the next generation scientists in Auburn who will define the workforce at National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF, soon to be opened in Manhattan, Kansas as part of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Science Training Program.

The NBAF will be the first laboratory in the United States to provide Maximum Biological Containment Space (BSL-4) to enable the study of high-impact zoonotic diseases affecting large livestock and will support the pilot-scale development of vaccines and other medical countermeasures designed to mitigate threats. to agro-security.

As part of this national effort, Auburn’s AHAD program will expand the mission and capacity of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s existing animal health research to include research complementary to the goals of the USDA and other federal agencies. responsible for ensuring national security and public safety, ”Bartol said. “It will work in close collaboration with partners from the Allied Federal space and will take advantage of the capacities of a program supported by the National Network of Animal Health Laboratories established in Alabama State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, adjacent to the veterinary campus.

“Auburn’s subject matter experts with significant experience in food animal research already include specialists in internal medicine, virology, immunology, molecular diagnostics, vaccinology and zoonotics. We hope that the creation of AHAD will further expand this program to include the recruitment of an epidemiologist / computer specialist and one or more microbiomics / pathogenomics specialists.

The AHAD will focus on the biodefense mission, in accordance with the four strategic areas of the national biodefense strategy as identified by the USDA-ARS. These areas include predicting the emergence of pathogens in livestock and associated wildlife; understand the ecology of exotic, emerging and re-emerging pathogens; search for intervention in the event of an incident; and the development of veterinary medical countermeasures for the early detection, prevention and treatment of exotic and emerging animal diseases.

In addition to working with the US National Poultry Research Center, the AHAD program in Auburn will be strengthened by proximity and engagement with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The work will advance the National USDA-ARS Program Action Plan 103 designed to protect and ensure the security of the country’s agriculture and food supply through improved detection, prevention and control. diseases, and will contribute to this area of ​​national need through a training service center for the next generation of veterinary researchers and basic animal health scientists.

“Over the years, the Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine has established working relationships with a number of federal agencies operating in the agro- / bio-defense field,” Bartol said. “AHAD will work closely with its partners to meet CERES ‘mission to” protect and defend the American agricultural industry from threats to global health and to innovate for food security, now and in the future. ” “.

(Written by Mike Jernigan)


Boyd S. Abbott

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