The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded two major training grants to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. Valued at almost $1 million and designed to boost biomedical and veterinary research, these are the first National Institutes of Health training grants ever awarded to Virginia Tech.

"The receipt of these prestigious National Institutes of Health grants is an important milestone in the evolution of our research programs," said Dean Gerhardt Schurig. "The shortage of research capacity in the profession of veterinary medicine is well-documented. These grants will enable us to begin preparing researchers to address this need."

The success that college researchers working in the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases have had in securing National Institutes of Health research funding over the past several years played an important role in this landmark National Institutes of Health funding achievement, according to Schurig.

A summer 2005 study and white paper authored by the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council entitled "Critical Needs for Research in Veterinary Science" described the urgent need to increase the nation's veterinary research capacity in order to foster advances in biomedical research and develop strategies for dealing with new and emerging animal borne diseases that affect public health.

The college has been awarded a National Institutes of Health T-32 Postdoctoral Training Grant that will create training opportunities for post-DVM's wishing to "retool" for careers in biomedical research, and an National Institutes of Health T-35 Summer Veterinary Student Research Program Grant, which creates summer research training experiences for students presently enrolled in the DVM program.

"Historically, animal models have been instrumental in understanding the pathogenesis and mechanism of many human diseases," said Dr. X. J. Meng, a physician and virologist who is serving as principal investigator on the $773,873 T-32 grant. "This program will train veterinarians in the skills of a researcher and encourage them to pursue a research career in the areas of animal models of infectious diseases, immunology, molecular biology, physiology, toxicology and nutrition."

Candidates for the training positions will be recruited from all over the country, according to Dr. Tom Caruso, director of research initiatives in the college and assistant director in the administration of the grant. He said ideal candidates for the program are veterinarians who have been practicing for two to three years and have realized a developing interest in biomedical research. Seventeen additional researchers from the Blacksburg and College Park campuses of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, the Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the Virginia Via College of Osteopathic Medicine are associated with the program.

The five-year National Institutes of Health T-35 grant is being led by Dr. Ansar Ahmed, professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology and director of the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases (CMMID). It is focused on creating training opportunities for DVM students.

"DVM students are highly skilled in animal physiology and animal pathology but there is no formal research training within the DVM program," said Ahmed. "This grant will provide a unique opportunity for DVM students to get excited about research and expand their career opportunities."

As part of the T-35 program, six veterinary students will undergo extensive training during summer breaks from the DVM curriculum. Those experiences will include applied training in research methodologies and interaction with Washington D.C. based agencies like the Food & Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine and the United States Department of Agriculture, according to Ahmed.

The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine has substantially increased its National Institutes of Health research funding over the past several years, Caruso said, adding that a critical mass of National Institutes of Health funded researchers are required in order to support the training programs. Caruso noted that the recognition of research quality implicit with the receipt of the training grants should also play a role in future faculty recruitment as well.

The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) is a two-state, three-campus professional school operated by the land-grant universities of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and the University of Maryland at College Park. Its flagship facilities, based at Virginia Tech, include the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, which treats more than 40,000 animals annually. Other campuses include the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Va., and the Avrum Gudelsky Veterinary Center at College Park, home of the Center for Government and Corporate Veterinary Medicine. The VMRCVM annually enrolls approximately 500 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and graduate students, is a leading biomedical and clinical research center, and provides professional continuing education services for veterinarians practicing throughout the two states. Virginia Tech, the most comprehensive university in Virginia, is dedicated to quality, innovation, and results to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.