2018: A Year in Review for the Michelson Prize & Grants Program

As we look forward to a new year, we on the Michelson Prize & Grants program team would like to share some highlights from our 2018.

An important milestone was reached in 2018: On October 16th, the Michelson Prize & Grants celebrated its 10th anniversary as a program of The Michelson Found Animals Foundation. Over the past 10 years, the MPG program has committed a total of $15.8 million to 37 Michelson Grant projects around the world, representing an incredible investment in the future of spay/neuter and companion animal welfare.

2018 was also an important year for our friends at the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs, which hosted its 6th International Symposium on Non-Surgical Methods of Pet Population Control in July. This 2.5-day meeting, which brought together 150 delegates from 13 countries, focused on contraceptive science as well as field science and implementation of nonsurgical sterilants. Several Michelson Grantees, as well as staff and scientific advisors of the Michelson Prize & Grants program, attended and presented their work at this important meeting. All abstracts, posters, and presentation videos are accessible on the ACC&D website for free. Many thanks to ACC&D for hosting such an informative meeting and for providing these resources at no cost on their website!

Our grantee teams have also continued to publish important findings for the research community. In 2018, Michelson Grant-funded work by Drs. Cristina Gobello, Doug Jones, Jonathan LaMarre, and Tatiana Samoylova were published in Theriogenology, Vaccine (twice!), Reproduction, and Molecular Biotechnology, respectively. Michelson Grantees have been published a total of 24 times over the past 10 years in highly-regarded peer-reviewed journals, significantly contributing to the current knowledge on canine and feline reproduction.

Looking ahead, we are excited to see what is in store for our three active Michelson Grant projects. Drs. Patricia Donahoe and David Pepin, based at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, are continuing their work to develop a gene transfer-based injection expressing Mullerian Inhibiting Substance to induce sterility in cats by blocking follicle recruitment. Dr. Lee Smith, with dual appointments at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and the University of Newcastle in Australia, is working to refine microRNA technology to inhibit expression of the androgen receptor protein in cats and dogs. Finally, Dr. David Baker and his team at the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington in Seattle are seeking to computationally design mini-proteins that will bind to gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), thereby preventing the hormone from binding to its receptor and potentially disrupting the HPG axis and causing infertility. Each of these projects holds an immense amount of promise, and we are looking forward to learning more about their potential in the months to come.

We are also pleased to share that C-Suite Quarterly named Dr. Gary K. Michelson, the founder and generous funder of the Michelson Found Animals Foundation, their LA Visionary of the Year in Philanthropy, Art, & Culture. The Michelson Prize & Grants team is ever grateful for the generosity of Dr. Michelson and his wife Alya Michelson for funding the Michelson Prize & Grants program in its entirety.

From all of us on Team MPG, we wish you a happy, healthy, and safe new year!

 

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!