Auburn researcher receives grant of more than $400,000 for vaccine to spay and neuter cats and dogs

AUBURN – Tatiana Samoylova, an associate research professor at the Scott-Ritchey Research Center at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, has received a two-year, $412,106 Michelson Grant from the Found Animals Foundation to continue her research to develop an alternative to surgical spaying and neutering of cats and dogs.

“To control the overpopulation of unowned animals, my laboratory, in collaboration with Drs. Nancy Cox, Valery Petrenko, Bettina Schemera, Frank Bartol and Mark Carpenter, is developing immunocontraceptive vaccines that are based on phage-GnRH constructs via phage display technology,” said Samoylova. “Such vaccines are designed to be used primarily by animal shelters as cost-effective alternatives to surgical neutering.”

According to the Found Animals Foundation, half of the six to eight million cats and dogs that enter U.S. shelters each year 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, the need for trained veterinary surgeons and appropriate facilities.  A single-dose, non-surgical 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.

In October 2008, Found Animals launched the Michelson Prize and Grants in Reproductive Biology, a prize philanthropy program dedicated to the development of a permanent, non-surgical sterilant that is safe and effective for use in male and female cats and dogs. Similar in design to the X Prize, the $25 million Michelson Prize is offered to spur innovation from experts worldwide in pursuit of this sterilant and will be awarded to the first entity to provide Found Animals with the product.

“We’re thrilled to award a Michelson Grant to Dr. Samoylova,” said Aimee Gilbreath, executive director of Found Animals Foundation. “Her promising research is a major step toward realization of a non-surgical sterilant for cats and dogs, and we welcome her as a competitor for the $25 million Michelson Prize.”

Samoylova’s grant is the second Michelson Grant funded by Found Animals at the Scott-Ritchey Research Center. Scott-Ritchey and Vaxin Inc., a clinical stage vaccine development company, received a three-year $1 million Michelson Grant from Found Animals to continue development of an adenoviral-vectored vaccine that may provide an alternative to surgical spay and neuter for cats and dogs.

Michelson Grants of up to $250,000 a year per grant are awarded on an ongoing basis to scientists pursuing cutting-edge approaches to non-surgical sterilization for cats and dogs. Found Animals has received more than 175 letters of intent for the Michelson Grants, and 60 full grant proposals have been invited and reviewed. To date, 18 of those have been approved for funding, totaling more than $7 million in grants.

Scientists at the Scott-Ritchey Research Center at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine conduct cutting-edge research to improve the health of dogs and cats. Center scientists are utilizing state-of-the-art techniques to develop injectable (for use in multiple species) and oral (species-specific) vectored vaccine preparations that induce immune responses to interfere with fertility of both male and female animals. It is hoped when these products become available and are widely used, the number of unwanted dogs and cats that are euthanized each year will be reduced dramatically with a concurrent reduction of diseases that affect pet populations and, in some cases, human health.

(Written 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)