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Animal diseaseS&T funds training of the next generation of animal health experts

Published 24 October 2017

Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) are highly contagious with high morbidity and mortality. These diseases quickly cross-national borders, negatively impacting a country’s economic stability and public health by reducing exports, food quality and quantity, and the availability of livestock products and animal power. They pose serious threats to a country’s well-being, and scientists around the world are continuously investigating new methods to prevent their spread. This past summer, DHS S&T funded two programs — Texas A&M University’s Bench to Shop program and Kansas State University’s Transboundary Animal Disease Fellowship — to train the next generation of animal health experts.

The school year is well underway, but some students kept busy over the summer, honing their skills through specialized learning opportunities. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) funded two such programs, Texas A&M University’s Bench to Shop program and Kansas State University’s Transboundary Animal Disease Fellowship, to train the next generation of animal health experts. The National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF) opens in 2022 and new scientists with this type of training are needed to ensure we can adequately carry out the research critical to protecting the health and security of U.S. animal and public health.

S&T notes that Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) are highly contagious with high morbidity and mortality. These diseases quickly cross-national borders, negatively impacting a country’s economic stability and public health by reducing exports, food quality and quantity, and the availability of livestock products and animal power. They pose serious threats to a country’s well-being, and scientists around the world are continuously investigating new methods to prevent their spread.

“Domestic agriculture is vital to the economic health of the United States,” said Michelle Colby, Chief of S&T’s Agriculture Defense Branch. “Agricultural products contributed over five percent to the U.S. gross domestic product in 2015. Any deliberate or natural disruption of the U.S. agricultural enterprise would constitute a serious threat to the national economy and social stability. Transboundary animal diseases represent a grave threat to the U.S. livestock industry due to their ability to disrupt both the export and domestic commerce of animals and animal products.”

Effectively combating TADs requires innovative technical solutions that keep the U.S. ahead of the threat. For this reason, the S&T Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency’sChemical and Biological Defense Division partnered with two universities to develop training programs for individuals who will develop the next generation of TAD identification, prevention, and mitigation capabilities.

The Texas A&M University Bench to Shop Program focuses on developing business management and legal skills, which helps participants improve their ability to plan, execute, evaluate, and transition TAD research and development technology to the marketplace. The course, which starts with online classes and culminates in a three-week hands-on training, provides students with insight into four categories of TAD expertise: vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics, and biologically relevant specimens.