Honor for pioneering equine stem cell researcher

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The equine cartilage disk is now a reality, with live testing on the horizon. Photos: Sarah Lepage; racing image, Dave Landry
An equine cartilage disk, of about 4mm in diameter, is being used in trials in Canada, thanks to stem cell researcher Dr Thomas Koch. 

An equine stem cell researcher is among the inaugural recipients of new University of Guelph internal awards recognizing research excellence and innovation.

Dr Thomas Koch, from Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Biomedical Sciences, has received a Research Excellence Award.

“The awards recognize both researchers who are embarking on stellar careers and those whose research successes already set them apart from their colleagues in their disciplines globally,” said  University of Guelph vice-president (research) Malcolm Campbell.

Dr Thomas Koch
Dr Thomas Koch

Koch, who was recently recognized with a 2016 Early Researcher Award from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, focuses his research on stem cell biology, tissue engineering-based therapies and regenerative medicine. In particular he is studying the potential of stem cells to repair damage to joints and cartilage. His work on equine stem cells for cartilage repair includes finding better ways to treat horses, as well as using the horse as a model for testing new therapies for humans. Koch is also a founding member and current vice-chair of the North American Veterinary Regenerative Medicine Association.

In 2012, Koch isolated mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) for potential cartilage repair using a simple, non-invasive procedure.

He was recognised along with Dr Shayan Sharif, a professor of poultry immunology at the OVC’s Department of Pathobiology, who received a Research Leadership Chair.

“Drs Sharif and Koch are among our best: they were nominated by their peers, not only because of their outstanding scholarly accomplishments, but also because they are exemplary citizens of the University of Guelph,” said OVC Dean Jeff Wichtel.

“The Chair and the Award are well-deserved acknowledgements of their continued commitment to research excellence in their respective disciplines, and highlight once again OVC’s strengths in translational medicine, food animal production, food safety and security.”

Created by the U of G’s Office of Research and the Office of the Provost, the awards will be made annually.

Research Excellence awards are a one-time, $5000 award. Early career faculty who are one to two years post-tenure are eligible. Research Leadership Chairs are for well-established faculty who have demonstrated research excellence. The $15,000 awards are for three years, with a possible extension to five years.

Award winners will present their work to U of G and the wider Guelph community through special research events. Each of U of G’s seven colleges will be eligible for one Research Excellence Award recipient and up to two Research Leadership Chairs. Recipients are nominated and selected by their respective colleges. Awards are based on scholarly output, research-related knowledge mobilization, research-derived innovation and training of highly qualified personnel.

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