Translational Research Opens New Doors for Many U.S. Veterinary Colleges

More teaching hospitals are taking advantage of translational research to participate in federally-funded, interdisciplinary projects, said Herbert Whiteley, DVM, dean of the University of Illinois’ college of veterinary medicine. The term translational research refers to  the process of translating knowledge derived from laboratory work into clinical applications. It has created new links between bioengineering, engineering, chemistry, imaging and infectious disease experts at the college, Whiteley said. Illinois is one of many U.S. colleges to tap this funding source, which is getting more industry attention, said academic professionals.

Translational research, “allows [us] to translate basic ideas into supportive solutions to [large-scale medical] problems," Whiteley explained. "Colleges are integral to the success of bridging the gap between basic research and applied medicine,” he added. “The translational area is driven by basic science that [can ultimately] impact society” by benefiting human and animal patients.

Schools like Purdue, Iowa State, Auburn University and Texas A&M that do not have large human medical teaching schools on campus are able to participate in more research that has human applications because of this funding, Whiteley said. Funding is provided by the National Institutes of Health, which is preparing to launch a new translational initiative this fall, said a spokesperson.

Henry Baker, DVM, director of the Scott Ritchey Research Center at Auburn University, said collaboration between veterinary and medical teaching hospitals is not new, but it is getting more attention. “Reviewers at the NIH are starting to wake up to the fact that there are certain things that cannot be duplicated in a laboratory and there are no other courses of therapy,” Baker said.

Both Baker and Whiteley referred to canine osteosarcoma research that may have direct links to the human disease because the dog model is almost identical to what happens in children. “We see spontaneous, naturally-occurring diseases in the veterinary community,” Whiteley said. “And as these collaborations develop [between different departments at the colleges and in the larger medical community] we can develop new treatment regimes, and applications that will apply directly to veterinary clinical practices.”