MAF to Raise $2.5 Million for Consortium to Study Equine Diseases

Edited press release

Morris Animal Foundation has selected the University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine to receive funding for the first ever Equine Consortium for Genetic Research grant. The goal of the $2.5 million grant is to bring together the world's best researchers in a focused, collaborative effort to improve equine health.

The consortium grant, led by University of Minnesota professors Jim Mickelson and Stephanie Valberg, received the highest score out of 27 multi-institutional applications reviewed by MAF. The University of Minnesota was identified as the lead institution with 32 scientists from 18 academic institutions throughout nine countries collaborating on the development of the proposal.

The Equine Consortium for Genetic Research will enhance the ability of clinical and basic scientists to study genetic processes contributing to high priority equine diseases and enhance knowledge regarding normal cellular processes governing equine biology. The National Institutes of Health recently awarded a research team led by scientists at the Broad Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology funding to pursue the Health Horse Genome Sequencing Program, which will sequence the genome of the domestic horse, along with seven different horse breeds. The Broad Institute is also one of the institutions that will collaborate with the University of Minnesota on the Equine Consortium for Genetic Research.

Researchers from the Equine Consortium for Genetic Research will use the sequenced horse genome to study and identify those genes and mutations that contribute to heritable diseases such as musculoskeletal disease, laminitis, recurrent airway obstruction, and bone disease.

"This project will benefit the entire horse industry, offer new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to reduce animal suffering, and promote equine health and welfare," said Jim Mickelson, consortium director. "We will be able to do for the horse what we already can do for human and canine research."

MAF has begun a major fund-raising campaign for this grant and hopes to secure half of the funding by the beginning of 2007.