September 26, 2007

A medical research charity in Britain has announced a £10.7 million initiative to encourage veterinarians to take up research careers. The threat posed to animal and human health by emerging diseases, often exacerbated by unprecedented movement and trade and by climate change, has been highlighted in recent days with the first case in the UK of Bluetongue, a similar midge-borne disease to African Horse Sickness, both of which have been spreading north for the last 20 years.

The Wellcome Trust, the UK's largest medical research charity, announced the launch this week. The scheme will be run in partnership with the UK's veterinary schools.

Professor Gary England, Foundation Dean and Professor of Comparative Veterinary Reproduction at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science said: "The School has a philosophy of integrating research and clinical training within its undergraduate programme. This new funding offers two significant developments for postgraduate research. It will develop research and clinical excellence in veterinary-qualified staff and engage veterinarians from clinical practice into research through the innovative Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Doctor of Veterinary Science programme".

Veterinary research is important not just for animal health but also for human health, including quality and safety throughout the food chain, comparative studies that inform human medicine and our understanding of zoonoses (diseases that can cross the species barrier from animals to human, such as rabies, BSE and HIV).

Dr Pat Goodwin, Head of Pathogens, Immunology and Population Studies at the Wellcome Trust said: "Given the rising importance of zoonoses, it is more important than ever that we have a new generation of clinically-trained veterinary scientists. This new partnership between the Wellcome Trust and the UK veterinary schools is aimed at supporting this new generation".

The programme recognises that there is a national need for more veterinary-qualified researchers. It is being carried out at The University of Nottingham in partnership with the other six UK Veterinary Schools at the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and the University of Oxford (Laboratory Animal Medicine Component).

Professor Sandy Trees from the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Liverpool, who led the application for this award said: "This programme aims to create clinically literate researchers and research-literate clinicians. It will provide a cohort of veterinarians superbly equipped to contribute to the solution of some of the major health and welfare problems facing animals and humans in the twenty-first century".

The programme has been welcomed by Lord Selborne, who has previously highlighted the importance of veterinary research to society and the need to encourage veterinary students to undertake research training.

"I am delighted that the Wellcome Trust is working in partnership with the UK veterinary colleges to strengthen veterinary research, an area of increasing importance," says Lord Selborne. "This initiative will build on the Trust's ongoing support of this field and on the Veterinary Training Research Initiative, established in response to the report that I chaired which identified the lack of training opportunities for veterinary researchers."

The programme will deliver 20 Clinical Research Training Fellows, each with a PhD and a clinical or pathology specialist qualification, as well as number of postdoctoral fellows and clinical doctoral fellows, each with a DVM and specialist postgraduate training in laboratory animal medicine. In addition, leading to these centrepiece awards will be 175 Vacation Scholarships, 175 Intercalation Awards, support for 5 Summer Schools, and 9 one-year Research Entry Scholarships.

To coincide with the announcement of the new programme, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has launched The Impact of Veterinary Research, a brochure to promote the key role that veterinary research plays in our lives.

"I have spent over 40 years in practice and have seen the array of medicines and techniques available to the veterinary surgeon increase exponentially over the years," says Dr Bob Moore, RCVS President. "I am very much aware of the enormous importance of veterinary research, not only to the veterinary profession but to the world at large. I congratulate the Wellcome Trust on this exciting new initiative, which will help to develop and sustain a vibrant veterinary research community."

 

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