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Reference Desk April 2012

Auburn Researcher Receives Grant to Study Contraceptive Vaccine Alternatives to Surgery

    AUBURN, Alabama, April 2, 2012—Tatiana Samoylova, an associate research professor at the Scott-Ritchey Research Center at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, has received a two-year, $412,106 Michelson Grant from the Found Animals Foundation. 

    The grant will fund Samoylova to continue her research to develop immunocontraceptive vaccines with a long lasting effect for use in both male and female cats and dogs.

    “To control the overpopulation of unowned animals, my laboratory, in collaboration with Drs. Nancy Cox, Valery Petrenko, Bettina Schemera, Frank Bartol, and Mark Carpenter, is developing immunocontraceptive vaccines that are based on phage-GnRH constructs via phage display technology,” said Samoylova. “Such vaccines are designed to be used primarily by animal shelters as cost-effective alternatives to surgical neutering.”

    According to Found Animals, six to eight million cats and dogs enter U.S. shelters each year, and half are euthanized. While animal sterilization has long been recognized as an integral solution to the problem of overpopulation, standard surgical techniques of spaying and neutering have obstacles such as high costs, the need for trained veterinary surgeons, and appropriate facilities. A single-dose, nonsurgical sterilant that could be administered in the field at a reasonable cost would be an ideal solution, and would save lives and end suffering for millions of companion animals throughout the world.

    In October 2008, Found Animals launched the Michelson Prize and Grants in Reproductive Biology, a prize philanthropy program dedicated to the development of a permanent, nonsurgical sterilant that is safe and effective for use in male and female cats and dogs. Similar in design to the X Prize, the $25 million Michelson Prize is offered to spur innovation from experts worldwide in pursuit of this sterilant and will be awarded to the first entity to provide Found Animals with the product. Michelson Grants of up to $250,000 per year per grant are awarded on an ongoing basis to scientists pursuing cutting-edge approaches to nonsurgical sterilization for cats and dogs. Found Animals has received over 175 letters of intent for the Michelson Grants, and 60 full grant proposals have been invited and reviewed. To date, 18 of those have been approved for funding, totaling over $7 million in grants.

    “We’re thrilled to award a Michelson Grant to Dr. Samoylova,” said Aimee Gilbreath, executive director of Found Animals Foundation. “Her promising research is a major step toward realization of a nonsurgical sterilant for cats and dogs, and we welcome her as a competitor for the $25 million Michelson Prize.”

    Samoylova’s grant is the second Michelson Grant funded by Found Animals at the Scott-Ritchey Research Center. Scott-Ritchey and Vaxin Inc., a clinical stage vaccine development company, received a three-year $1 million Michelson Grant from Found Animals to continue development of an adenoviral-vectored vaccine that may provide an alternative to surgical spay and neuter for cats and dogs.

    About Found Animals Foundation
    Found Animals Foundation is a privately funded Los Angeles based nonprofit organization dedicated to animal welfare issues and led by business and medical professionals. The Found Animals team works directly within the animal welfare community to improve animal shelter processes, fund pet sterilization research, promote effective animal welfare policy, and provide funding to area shelters and spay and neutering clinics. The organization also sponsors and promotes pet adoption, pet spay and neutering, microchipping programs, and various animal and pet-related events.

    About the Scott-Ritchey Research Center
    Scientists at the Scott-Ritchey Research Center at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine conduct cutting-edge research to improve the health of dogs and cats. Center scientists are utilizing state-of-the-art techniques to develop injectable (for use in multiple species) and oral (species-specific) vectored vaccine preparations that induce immune responses to interfere with fertility of both male and female animals. It is hoped when these products become available and used widely, the number of unwanted dogs and cats that are euthanized each year will be reduced dramatically with a concurrent reduction of diseases that affect pet populations and, in some cases, human health.

    Source: Auburn University

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