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National Needs Graduate Fellowship Program in Food Animal Biosecurity: Infectious Disease Ecology


Human health is directly tied to the health of food animals and the ecosystems in which they are raised. Food animal origin and food-borne infectious agents frequently disrupt the food chain. Climate changes are shifting wildlife populations and their associated disease vectors into closer contact with domestic populations, which increases risk of pathogen transmission to livestock and poultry. Food security and sustainable ecosystems are national concerns, yet the many workforce components that comprise food animal production and food security remain largely segregated, which impoverishes national efforts to ensure a sustainable, sufficient and safe food supply. These realities underscore our intent to train scientists with both the investigative skills and an understanding of the food system such that they can address complex challenges across the continuum of the animal food chain. This National Needs Fellowship Program in Food Animal Biosecurity: Infectious Disease Ecology integrates PhD training in infectious diseases that threaten the global food network with a biosecurity experiential immersion. We request support for three PhD fellowships in the Targeted Expertise Shortage Area Sciences for Agricultural Biosecurity. Specifically, we will produce infectious diseases scientists with strong preparedness to innovatively address multifaceted challenges of food animal biosecurity, sustainable agroecosystems, and food systems. Training will integrate basic scientific research, experiential learning, and extended coursework in one of three disciplines inherent to ensuring a safe food supply: Food Safety (Discipline F), Agricultural Biosecurity (Discipline X), or Risk Analysis and Decision Management (Discipline L).

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<p>NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: <br/>Food security sciences suffer from a shortage of skilled investigative infectious disease scientists who understand broader food production systems. This deficit compromises efforts to create sustainable food animal practices, protect the animal-sourced food chain, and assure food safety through control of disease outbreaks and managing risks resulting from new agricultural practices, movement of wildlife populations, climate change, food safety and defense regulations, market preferences, and societal pressures. Basic knowledge of infectious agent pathogenesis and transmission must be translated to the agricultural and food system communities in the form of safer and more secure food supplies that promote long-term sustainability. This goal can be achieved through real-time surveillance diagnostics, new prevention and treatment approaches,
improved on-farm and regional biosecurity protocols, and healthy ecosystem management practices. Yet risk management, epidemiology, sustainable food animal agriculture, policy law, and infectious disease disciplines are not meaningfully integrated despite the contribution each makes to agricultural biosecurity against infectious agents. We will educate three infectious disease scientists capable of immediately applying their research acumen to the food animal biosecurity industries. Fellows will acquire key learning through 1) a rigorous PhD training program, 2) a Food Systems Biosecurity experiential learning component, and 3) a Minor Concentration coursework in risk analysis, sustainable ecosystems, or policy and leadership. NNF graduates will be able to translate the results of laboratory research into new products and practices that improve food animal biosecurity, promote food
security, assess food systems risks, and formulate regulatory policies.
<p>APPROACH: <br/>We will employ several powerful features to ensure the program's long-term success and that of our graduates: (a) infectious disease research training that imparts scientific excellence; (b) an inter-collegiate and interdisciplinary program faculty with active and well-funded research programs specific to this Targeted Expertise Shortage Area; (c) a Food Security Immersion that imparts practical working knowledge of food animal management, disease surveillance, and food defense; (d) concentrated learning in risk analysis, sustainable animal ecosystems, and food security policy; (e) access to numerous Centers and core facilities focused on microbial pathogenesis, animal production systems, and food defense; (f) rigorous coursework; (g) required seminar and grant writing courses; (h) the formal training of Fellows as educators; and (i) multiple levels of
student engagement and mentoring. Our Fellows will succeed in a variety of academic and industry positions because they will have a strong scientific foundation in the ecology of infectious diseases affecting agricultural animals and the global food supply, a broad understanding of the policy and regulatory environment in which this scientific knowledge is put to use, and hands-on experience with real-world projects in risk analysis, sustainable agroecosystems, and disease surveillance.
<p>PROGRESS: 2013/02 TO 2014/02<br/>Target Audience: Nothing Reported Changes/Problems: Nothing Reported What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided? Our goal is to place students into externships at the point of animal-sourced protein production or immediately after harvest. It's early, but one student has begun working at a regional pig genetics research company. All students have had an opportunity to present research seminars. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest? All students have presented seminars in the collegiate graduate student seminar series. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals? Continue to complete PhD timelines, including PhD qualifying exams.
<p>PROGRESS: 2012/02/15 TO 2013/02/14<br/>OUTPUTS: This report covers the first year of the award that funds three PhD trainees in infectious disease ecology of food animals. Because the funding started after the usual graduate program application/selection process, we were able to enroll a single student in the initial phases of the award. The student is a DVM working on biosecurity in swine herds, including evaluating efficacy of several PRRS control protocols. This student has already captured external funding from the National Pork Producers to support his thesis research. The remaining two positions have been recruited and will begin their studies in June of this year. One student is a recent DVM graduate who will work on mastitis control and dairy cow health/welfare systems. The second student is likely to pursue working on the pathogenomics of Mycobacterium avium
subsp. paratuberculosis, the causative agent of Johne's disease. PARTICIPANTS: Trainee 1 is a DVM from the University of Minnesota and is working on swine herd health and farm biosecurity. Trainee 2 is a DVM graduate from Penn who is completing an dairy ambulatory residency at Cornell. She will be working on mastitis control in large vs small dairies and how management impacts dairy cow health and welfare. Trainee 3 will graduate in May 2013 with a BS in both Animal Science and in Biochemistry. Her advisor and project has not been fully defined but she is likely to work within our Johne's disease research group on molecular pathogenesis of the organism in farm settings. TARGET AUDIENCES: Not relevant to this project. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Not relevant to this project.

Rutherford, Mark; Murtaugh, Michael P; Sreevatsan, Srinand
University of Minnesota
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