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Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. - 3/27/08

A Transformational Grant

WSU researchers, led by Wendy Brown of the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, recently reported on a new finding that promises to speed the development of vaccines. The team focused on a bacterium that causes disease in cattle, but their research also offers great promise in the search for immunizations against persistent human diseases, many of which are prevalent in developing nations.

This is a most timely example of the outstanding work that happens every day in our labs at Washington State University. Our university is a leader in exploring the connections between human and animal diseases, and that effort received an enormous boost this week.

Monday, we announced the largest private grant in WSU’s history, $25 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support our new School for Global Animal Health . The money will go toward a $35 million building, to be constructed on the Pullman campus, which will be the focal point of research university-wide in this important area.

The Gates Foundation is known for its transformational work on global health and development. The foundation is dedicated to helping people, at a grass-roots level, lift themselves up from lives of poverty and disease.

In this regard, the efforts of the Foundation and of our School for Global Animal Health are very much in concert. As Warwick Bayly, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, pointed out at the announcement ceremony, the health of people in developing nations is inextricably linked with the health of their animal populations.

This grant moves WSU closer to our goal of becoming an internationally recognized center for the study of vaccine development, disease detection and zoonotic diseases, diseases that spread from animals to humans. They account for 70 percent of human infectious diseases worldwide.

The director of the School for Global Animal Health is Guy Palmer, a National Academy of Sciences member. In recent years, Palmer’s research has focused primarily on tick-borne pathogens that cause millions of dollars of losses in cattle herds, particularly in tropical regions. It is hard to overstate the economic impact such diseases can have on a poor farming community in a developing nation.

I am extremely pleased and proud that the Gates Foundation has chosen Washington State University to be a partner in this most important work.  I congratulate those WSU scientists whose work has placed us in the forefront of global animal health and I look forward to more advances in the ongoing battles against poverty and disease in the years ahead.