Auburn shares $1 million grant for vaccine to spay and neuter pets

AUBURN – The Scott-Ritchey Research Center at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine and Vaxin Inc., a clinical stage vaccine development company, have received a $1 million Michelson Grant award from the Found Animals Foundation to continue development of a vaccine that may provide an alternative to surgical spay and neuter for cats and dogs.

Henry Baker and Nancy Cox of Auburn University and Kent Van Kampen of Vaxin are the lead investigators of the grant project. The Scott-Ritchey Research Center at Auburn is dedicated to research for improving the health of companion animals.

“For a decade, scientists at the Scott-Ritchey Research Center and Vaxin have collaborated in the design and testing of dog and cat contraceptive vaccines,” said Baker. “The goal is to create a vaccine which will induce long-term sterility and block breeding behavior in both male and female dogs and cats after administration of a single dose.”

According to the Found Animals Foundation, six to eight million cats and dogs enter U.S. shelters each year, and about half are euthanized. While animal sterilization has long been recognized as an integral solution to the problem of overpopulation, standard surgical techniques of spaying and neutering have obstacles such as high costs and the need for trained veterinary surgeons and appropriate facilities. A single-dose, nonsurgical sterilant that could be administered in the field at a reasonable cost would be an ideal solution, and would save lives and end suffering for millions of companion animals throughout the world.

With the Michelson Grant, collaborators at Auburn’s Scott-Ritchey Research Center and Vaxin will pursue the $25 million Michelson Prize offered by the Found Animals Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit. Comparable to the widely publicized “X Prizes,” which encourage scientists to develop innovative solutions to global challenges, the Found Animals Foundation’s Michelson Prize in Reproductive Biology seeks a low-cost, nonsurgical method to sterilize large populations of cats and dogs to reduce the number of homeless and unwanted animals that are killed each year in shelters.

As a condition of Michelson Grant funding, Found Animals Foundation receives first right to negotiate an exclusive, worldwide license to market and sell products resulting from the research it funds.

(Contributed by Tara Lanier.)

Contact: Tara Lanier, College of Veterinary Medicine (334)844-3698, (tara.lanier@auburn.edu) or
Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing (334) 844-9999, (clardch@auburn.edu)