Local Doctor Recognized At International Canine Health Awards

Three of the world’s most innovative researchers have triumphed in these prestigious Awards that launched at last year’s show

This past weekend, Metro Bank founder Vernon Hill presented the coveted International Canine Health Awards, the largest veterinary awards in Europe, to three very deserving individuals during a ceremony at this year’s world famous Crufts Dog Show held at the NEC in Birmingham, UK.

Launched at the Show last year, the Awards were developed to recognize and reward innovative researchers, veterinary scientists, and students who are significantly impacting the health and well-being of dogs, and in turn, are actually helping to transform our understanding of human diseases.

Dr Elaine Ostrander, Dr Gustavo Aguirre and student, Emily Milodowski, who were nominated by their peers and contemporaries, will be presented with prizes to a combined value of £60,000 for their pioneering work in dog health and groundbreaking developments in veterinary science, generously donated by Metro Bank Founder and Chairman Vernon Hill and his wife Shirley.

Dr. Elaine Ostrander has been chosen as the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award, her pioneering work has contributed not only to developments in canine health but has also transformed our understanding of several human diseases.

Her work has stretched over two decades during which she has led dramatic advances in our understanding of mammalian genomics as well as the genetic basis of cancer susceptibility.  She is among the most accomplished genomics researchers in the world. On an international level, Dr. Ostrander is the leading figure in canine genetics and disease and has greatly advanced the dog as an important model in human disease (the dog shares more genetically based diseases with humans than any other model species).   Thanks to Dr. Ostrander’s work, scientists have been able to zoom into dog DNA and locate various diseases such as lupus, heart disease, and cancer. Because we share such similar genetic makeup, humans and dogs also largely suffer from the same diseases as well. Often it can be hard to find a disease gene by studying human families.  However since canine families are large and the pedigree records outstanding, by making use of the canine family database, studies have been developed that allow researchers to find markers that pinpoint where we should search for a mutated gene. Once the mutated gene is found, humans with the same or similar diseases are checked and invariably there is a connection.

Dr. Ostrander, who is from the United States of America, will receive a prize fund of £10,000 to help towards her future work.

Dr. Gustavo Aguirre will be awarded the International Prize in Canine Health for his impressive work in the recognition and characterization of eye diseases in dogs, applying both clinical and genetic solutions. His work alongside Dr. Ostrander has allowed him to undertake groundbreaking research into canine eye diseases, and to date has identified more than 14 different retinal disease genes that cause inherited blindness in more than 59 breeds of dogs.

Like Dr. Ostrander, his work with retinal disease genes in canines has allowed him to identify the comparative human retinal disease genes. The same treatment he used to restore a blind Briard’s sight, is now being successfully used to treat human patients with eyesight defects. Dr. Aguirre, originally from Cuba but now residing in the US, will receive a prize fund of £40,000 to help finance his pioneering future projects.

Finally, Bristol University student Emily Milodowski, who ranks in the top three of 105 fellow students in every subject, has won the Student Inspiration Award. She was picked for her research on the prevalence and distribution of a bacteria called Campylobacter in the canine intestine, which again may eventually help human health. Emily, originally from Loughborough, will now be awarded £10,000 for the next research project that will see her looking into wound healing in dogs.

The Awards were judged by a panel of influential representatives from the veterinary profession and the world of scientific research. Dr. Alan Kelly, Dean Emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, chaired the committee that selected the International Prize winner and Mike Townsend, Chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, ran the panel that selected the Lifetime Achievement Award and Student Inspiration Award.

Vernon Hill, Founder and Chairman of Metro Bank, and Shirley Hill, whose foundation underwrites the Awards said, “Our congratulations go to all three winners on their amazing achievements. They are all truly deserving. Metro Bank is a visionary, innovative bank, and we support the same spirit in these prestigious Awards. “Dogs Rule” at Metro Bank, and we welcome them in with fresh water bowls, treats and Metro scarves 362 days a year. We are delighted to be making a difference to dogs’ lives through these Awards and to support the present and future leaders in veterinary science.”

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