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April 9, 2020
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) announced that it is funding five additional veterinary fellowships to conduct pandemic and zoonotic research.
Up to 75% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, meaning a pathogen can spread from animals to humans, FFAR said, noting that several coronaviruses and influenza viruses can be zoonotic and can be found in agricultural animals such as poultry and pigs.
Research on food animal production and veterinary medicine can reduce the threat of zoonotic pathogens, yet veterinary students have limited opportunities to research zoonotic diseases in agriculture, FFAR noted.
“The coronavirus is an example of how pathogens can move between humans and animals,” FFAR executive director Sally Rockey said. “Understanding new diseases in animals, and especially how they spread, is vital to slowing transmission and developing remedies. FFAR is expanding the Vet Fellows [program] to assure we have the expertise in the veterinary community to address what could be future pandemics.”
FFAR said a recent article published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Assn. agrees that veterinarians are needed in the research field to be part of the solution.
By funding five additional veterinary fellowships, FFAR said it is ensuring that the future scientific workforce includes veterinarians with expertise in zoonotic pathogens to conduct research on pathogens that threaten agricultural productivity and human health.
To bolster the scientific workforce in response to the coronavirus, FFAR said it is not requiring the 2020 Vet Fellows program to secure matching funds. Additionally, FFAR and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, which partners with FFAR to administer the program, extended the nomination deadline to May 6, 2020.
The FFAR Vet Fellows program will still support 10 students to conduct research on agricultural productivity, public health and environmental sustainability. Information about applying for the FFAR Vet Fellows Program is available on the website. The 15 total 2020 FFAR Vet Fellows will be announced in the summer of 2020.
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