2017: A Year in Review for the Michelson Prize & Grants Program

How time flies! Can you believe that the Michelson Prize & Grants program celebrated its ninth anniversary this past October? As we look ahead to what the new year has in store for us, we like to take some time to reflect on the important work that our grantees and partners have accomplished in the past twelve months.

As of the end of 2017, the Michelson Prize & Grants program has committed a total of $15.5 million to 37 different projects across the globe. Last year we initiated one new Michelson Grant-funded project, which is being directed by Dr. Lee Smith at the University of Edinburgh. This 3.5-year project is a natural progression of Dr. Smith’s first Michelson Grant project in which he and his team used microRNA technology to inhibit expression of the androgen receptor protein in the testes of male mice. In this new project, Dr. Smith and his team will further refine their single-dose sterilant construct before initiating a clinical trial in cats and dogs.

Our hard-working grantee teams continue to generate important findings for the scientific community. Last year, Michelson Grant-funded work by Drs. Patricia Donahoe, Michael Munks, Tatiana Samoylova, and Lee Smith were published in PNAS, Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, Current Medicinal Chemistry, and Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, respectively. As of the end of 2017, Michelson Grantees have been published 19 times in highly-regarded peer-reviewed journals, significantly contributing to the current knowledge on canine and feline reproduction. Several of our grantees already have draft manuscripts ready to submit in 2018, and we are excited to continue learning from their findings.

On the administrative side, we are thrilled to announce that the Michelson Found Animals Foundation hired Dr. Thomas J. Conlon as its first ever Chief Scientific Officer in March 2017. Dr. Conlon first began collaborating with the MPG program in October 2014 when he joined our Scientific Advisory Board. Since then, he has played an instrumental role in the program’s deepening understanding of the promise of gene transfer and its potential to help us achieve our goal of developing a nonsurgical sterilant for cats and dogs. Dr. Conlon’s passion for animals, his ongoing interest in exploring how gene transfer techniques can be applied in the veterinary world. and his almost two decades of gene transfer research dovetails with the MPG program’s goals, and we couldn’t be happier that he is now on board as a staff member.

We are also excited to share that Dr. Graham Cox joined our Scientific Advisory Board in August 2017. Dr. Cox’s contributions to the veterinary vaccine research field include registering the first GnRH vaccine in the USA, attaining USDA clearance for a behavior-modifying vaccine for poultry, and demonstrating the utility of DNA vaccines in cattle. More detailed biographies of both Dr. Conlon and Dr. Cox can be found on our Scientific Advisory Board page.

As always, the Michelson Prize & Grants team is grateful for the generosity of Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife Alya Michelson for funding the Michelson Prize & Grants program. We wish you all a wonderful 2018!