Submitted to: United States Animal Health Association Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 12, 2012
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: The NADC was established in 1961 to conduct basic and applied research on the livestock and poultry diseases of major economic importance to US agriculture. Now 50 years later, the NADC is the largest US federal animal health research facility focused on high-impact endemic diseases of livestock and wildlife. In 2009, we moved into new $470M state-of-the-art laboratory and animal facilities that now enable us to conduct high-level bio-containment research in a wide range of large animal livestock and wildlife species. To coincide with our transition into these new facilities, the NADC leadership team developed an ambitious five-year business plan that leveraged our new facilities with ongoing scientific advances in genomics and the life sciences to address the nation’s most pressing animal health problems. The NADC’s business focuses around four strategic research themes that include ruminant diseases and immunology; emerging diseases (most notably viral and prion diseases); zoonotic diseases in wildlife and livestock species; and, microbial ecology in food safety and animal health. NADC researchers across all four of these strategic themes are pioneering early development and integration of high-throughput genomics and systems biology platforms to yield new and exciting breakthroughs in potential molecular-based diagnostic and therapeutic technologies. . For example, NADC scientists have sequenced and analyzed the genomes and expressed proteins from several strains of the causative bacteria for Johnes disease. Using this knowledge, these scientists recently identified highly specific protein markers that show promise in detecting early stage pre-clinical infected animals so they can be isolated and culled before shedding the organism or developing clinical disease. Johnes disease costs the US dairy industry over $1B annually, and having a reliable pre-clinical diagnostic test would be a major breakthrough for better controlling and minimizing the impact of this disease. In another example, NADC researchers are investigating the impact of gut microbial ecology to enable better management of animal and foodborne pathogens, decrease the prevalence of antibiotic resistance, discover and develop new antimicrobial agents, and optimize nutrient utilization and immune system function in livestock and poultry. Another area where NADC is seeking biotechnology partners is in the development and validation of new genomics and bioinformatics based methods to diagnose and analyze newly emerging strains of influenza virus. Since 2009, NADC’s influenza research team has conducted successful proof-of-principle research demonstrating the potential power and validity of a comparative genome sequencing-based approach to early diagnosis and analysis of newly emergent strains of influenza virus. A key challenge (and opportunity) is to now develop and validate the bioinformatics analyses that would enable rapid assembly and analysis of multiple genomes in an actual disease-response time frame. The presentation will describe these and other recent findings of NADC research addressing contemporary animal health and food safety problems in livestock, wildlife and poultry.