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Kentucky Equine Research Projects Approved

A portion of any profits would be used for equine research in the state.

Six equine research projects totaling nearly $400,000 over a two-year period have been approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

All of the research, approved by the commission Jan. 5, will be conducted by the Kentucky Equine Initiative at the University of Kentucky. Approval by the commission came on a recommendation from the KHRC's Equine Drug Research Council, which approved the projects during a meeting that preceded the commission meeting.

While the commission approved the research grants with little or no discussion, there was considerable discussion about the viability of some of the projects and the procedures that would be used during the drug research council's consideration of the proposals.

The commission approved the grants with the caveat that a portion of any profits derived by the University of Kentucky from the research be directed toward equine research. The grants are the result of work by an EDRC research advisory group that began in May 2009. There were 13 proposals submitted before the Nov. 1 deadline, with the advisory group then performing independent reviews of the proposals. After additional consideration, the proposals were given a preliminary ranking and then submitted to external reviewers with expertise within the respective field to be researched.

Summaries of the research proposals and principal investigators for the projects, totaling $386,587 over two years, are:

--Comparison of in vitro antiviral activity of herpesvirus DNA polymerase inhibitors against neuropathogenic and non-neuropathogenic strains of equine herpesvirus-1: Udeni Balasuriya

Description: A range of antiviral medications will be tested for efficacy against the neurologic and non-neurologic forms of equine herpes virus.  As no vaccine has proven efficacy against the neurologic form of the virus, effective treatment is a key element effective disease outbreak management.

--Seroprevalence of Lawsonia intracellularis in Central Kentucky Thoroughbred weanlings: David W. Horohov

Description: This study will identify the prevalence of antibodies against Lawsonia intracellularis in weanlings in Kentucky.  This is an emerging disease and this study will help understand the impact on the horses in Kentucky.  Once this is understood, researchers can more effectively develop strategies to minimize the disease within a given population.

--Changes in gastrointestinal flora in response to antibiotic therapy and dietary intervention: Laurie Lawrence

Description: Antibacterial medications are administered to treat pathologic bacterial infection, However normal, resident, beneficial bacterial populations in the intestinal tract may also be impacted by treatment.  This study will document the changes in bacterial populations that occur in response to antibacterial treatments. 

--Safety and anti-inflammatory efficacy of glucocorticoids for intra-articular therapy in racehorses: James N. McLeod

Description: Glucocorticoids (cortisone type medications) have a legitimate role in the therapeutic treatment of athletic injuries; but their use must be considered and judicious. This project will assess, at the subcellular and biochemical  levels, the actions and effects of  four conventionally used corticosteroids at different doses on articular cartilage.

--Methods to suppress estrus in race mares: Edward L. Squires

Description: There is a need for a convenient, safe, effective and reversible way of suppressing estrus (heat) in race fillies and mares.  This project targets the control and secretion of prostaglandins that regulate the mare’s reproductive cycle. The administration of long-acting oxytocin and the administration of a long acting non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, meloxicam will be investigated as methods of controlling estrus behavior.

--Deunterated internal standards for equine therapeutic medication regulation: Thomas Tobin

Description: This project will produce purified samples of therapeutic medications (or their metabolites) that will be used by testing laboratories as reference standards in drug testing programs for the quanitation of substances detected  in post-race samples.  Technological improvements in equine drug testing methods testing require the use of regulatory thresholds in therapeutic medication regulation.  The use of internal reference standards of known purity and concentration  is key to the analytic process. 

During the equine drug research council's deliberation, concern was expressed over how much control the racing commission and council would have over ensuring that the research was being conducted in accordance with the proposals. Some questioned whether the funds allocated to the projects could be refunded if a funded proposal was not concluded to the satisfaction of the drug council and racing commission.

Nancy Cox, of the UK Equine Initiative, explained that there were sufficient reporting and monitoring mechanisms in place to see that the projects were on schedule as the research took place. She said there would be no point in a researcher failing to fulfill the terms of the project since it would potentially affect their ability to obtain future grants.

Cox also allayed concerns expressed by drug research council members Rogers Beasley and Dr. Gary Lavin about some of the proposals, particularly the research that would be conducted by Tobin on internal standards for equine therapeutic medication regulation.

In response to Beasley's questions about who would profit from the results of the research, Cox said the university had a standardized format for licensing of intellectual property such as equine research and that a competitive bidding process would take place. She also said there was a standard formula for distribution from any royalties as a result of the research.

Lavin questioned whether the type of research proposed under Tobin's project had not already been conducted. Tobin responded that despite the prevalence of equine drug research, standardized methods of conducting the research had not been researched.