Three representatives from the Animal Health and Agricultural/Biodefense Program of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine – Dr. Frank “Skip” Bartoll, Graduate Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies; Mireia Criado, assistant professor of pathology; and Dr. Paul Waltz, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathobiology – recently attended the dedication ceremony of the state-of-the-art BSL-2/BSL-3 laboratories for the study of avian viral diseases at the US National Poultry Research Center in Athens, Georgia.
The event was held during the USDA Agricultural Research Service, or USDA-ARS, open house for invited guests.
According to Bartoll, “These facilities will enable many of the specific Auburn AHAD goals through a partnership with USDA-ARS to support the National 103 Program,” and their mission is to provide scientific information and tools to detect, control, and eliminate animal diseases that affect agriculture and public health.
The AHAD program complements and extends the impact of ongoing work in this area as a new element in the national network of US government agencies and land-grant universities primarily focused on diseases affecting pets of economic importance, including those that can be transmitted from animals to humans, or Zoonoses pose a significant threat to public health or affect national security and economic stability locally, nationally and globally.
According to Bartoll — who leads AHAD with Walz — the Auburn program expands and advances research on consequences for animal, and more generally, public health in the southeastern United States and beyond. Their mission also complements efforts soon to be conducted at the National Agricultural and Biological Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas, a joint initiative of the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Homeland Security.
“As part of this national effort, the AHAD program at Auburn expands the College of Veterinary Medicine’s existing animal health research mission and capacity to include research that is complementary to the goals of the NBAF, USDA, and Department of Homeland Security,” Bartoll said. “It works closely with partners in the federal allied space and leverages the capabilities of a national program supported by the Network of Animal Health Laboratories that has been set up at the Alabama Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, adjacent to the Veterinary Campus.”
The AHAD program focuses on the mission of biodefense, consistent with the four strategic areas of the National Biodefense Strategy as defined by the US Department of Agriculture – ARS. These areas include: predicting the emergence of pathogens in livestock and associated wildlife; Understand the ecology of exotic, emerging and renewable pathogens; accident response research; And development of veterinary medical countermeasures for early detection, prevention and treatment of foreign and emerging animal diseases.
The AHAD program in Auburn is also enhanced by its proximity to and engagement with the US Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta as well as its collaborative research with USDA-ARS scientists at the US National Poultry Research Center in Athens. The program also contributes to this area of national needs by serving as a training center for the next generation of essential veterinary researchers and animal health scientists.
“Over the years, the Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine has developed important working relationships with USDA-ARS and other federal agencies involved in agriculture/biodefense,” Bartoll said. “AHAD will work closely with its partners, as noted in the USDA-ARS National 103 Program, to protect and ensure the safety of the nation’s agriculture and food supply by improving disease detection, prevention, and control.”