2019: A Year in Review for the Michelson Prize & Grants

At the beginning of each year, we like to reflect on our important accomplishments from the past 12 months and prepare for new challenges and opportunities in the year ahead.

Since the Michelson Prize & Grants program’s establishment in October 2008, we have committed just over $17 million to 38 grant projects worldwide. These projects have ranged in duration from 1 to 5+ years, have been carried out in all corners of the world, including the United States, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia, Argentina, and beyond, and have been led by top research scientists in various fields. We are so proud of our grantee community and of their continued progress toward the development of a nonsurgical sterilant for companion animals.

Our grantee teams have continued to publish and present important findings for the research community. In September 2019, Michelson Grant awardee Dr. Tatiana Samoylova at Auburn University published her research findings in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, marking the 25th scientific paper that has been published by a Michelson Grantee. Dr. Cristina Gobello, a Michelson Grantee based at the National University of La Plata in Argentina, presented her research findings at the Society for Theriogenology’s annual conference in Savannah, Georgia in July 2019. Publications and presentations like these are an integral part of the Michelson Prize & Grants program because they allow our grantees to continually advance the current knowledge on canine and feline reproduction. We are so grateful for our grantees’ commitment to this important work.

Looking to the year ahead, we are excited to announce that a brand new Michelson Grant project will commence in February 2020 under the direction of Drs. Lee Smith and John Aitken at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Drs. Smith and Aitken have each directed two Michelson Grant projects of their own, and this will be their first joint project.

We are also thrilled for the opportunity to participate in the International Symposium for Canine & Feline Reproduction (ISCFR), which will take place in Milan, Italy on June 24-27, 2020. ISCFR is a scientific meeting that focuses on important research advancements made in the field of small animal reproduction and contraception. Our two-hour session on the first day of the conference will provide a wonderful opportunity for our grantees, staff, and board members to present important research findings to this community and will also give us the opportunity to learn about potential new approaches to nonsurgical sterilization that could be explored.

We want to thank Dr. Gary Michelson and his wife Alya Michelson for their continued vision for, and financial support of, the Michelson Prize & Grants program. As the primary funder of nonsurgical spay/neuter research for cats and dogs, the MPG program would not be possible without their commitment to animal welfare.

We are wishing you all a wonderful 2020!

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!

 

2016: A Year in Review for the Michelson Prize & Grants Program

In October 2008, the Michelson Found Animals Foundation announced the creation of the Michelson Prize & Grants program, whose mission is to rapidly develop the world’s first permanent, nonsurgical spay/neuter method for cats and dogs. As we embark on a new year in our quest to create a noninvasive sterilization product for companion animals, we wanted to take a look back at the important achievements made by our grantees over the past year.

2016 marked the eighth year of the Michelson Prize & Grants program. As of the end of the year, researchers have submitted a total of 358 letters of intent and 133 grant proposals for funding consideration. To date, the MPG program has committed over $15 million to 37 approved projects in 7 different countries.

2016 was yet another big year for the MPG program. For starters, it marked the beginning of a truly innovative Michelson Grant-funded project led by Principal Investigator Dr. David Baker at the University of Washington. Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog that will give an in-depth overview of this exciting new project. 8 multi-year Michelson Grant projects were completed in 2016, 2 of which have resulted in continuation projects that are already underway. We are eager to see how these new projects unfold!

4 scientific papers written by Michelson Grantees were published in the esteemed journals Reproduction in Domestic Animals, Biology of Reproduction, Theriogenology, and Biomaterials, and 6 grantees presented their work at the prestigious International Symposium on Canine and Feline Reproduction in Paris, France in June. We are so grateful to work with such an engaged and active research community that is excited to share these important findings with their peers.

Finally, January 2016 marked the retirement of our beloved Dr. Shirley Johnston, the first Director of Scientific Research at the Found Animals Foundation. In addition to reviewing nearly every letter of intent and grant proposal that had been submitted to the MPG program up until her retirement, Shirley was pivotal in the formation of the Michelson Prize & Grants program’s scientific advisory board, the oversight of 30+ Michelson Grant-funded projects, and the development of the Michelson Prize criteria. Shirley is absolutely thrilled to have entered her retirement so she can spend more time traveling and visiting her children and their families in Oregon and South Korea. We are forever indebted to Shirley for making the Michelson Prize & Grants program what it is today, and we are so happy that she is enjoying this new phase of her life.

We are also indebted to Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife Alya Michelson for their generosity in funding the Michelson Prize & Grants program, and we are grateful for your continued support of our mission. We wish you all a happy and healthy 2017!

2015: A Year in Review for the Michelson Prize & Grants

2015 proved to be another exciting and productive year for the Michelson Prize & Grants program! As of December, we have received an astounding 345 letters of intent and 127 grant proposals since our program’s creation in October 2008. To date, we have approved 35 proposals for funding and have committed nearly $15 million to those projects.

Michelson Grant Projects

2015 marked the beginning of three new Michelson Grant-funded projects:

The following multi-year Michelson Grant projects were completed in 2015:

  • Inducing stable infertility by RNA interference; PI Beverly L. Davidson, PhD at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Ablation of hypothalamic GnRH neurons using targeted, cytotoxic exosomes: proof of concept study in mice; PI Colin E. Bishop, PhD at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
  • Development of targeted nanoparticles as non-surgical sterilizing agents: proof of concept study in mice, PI George L. Gerton, PhD at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

This year our grantees’ research findings were published in such esteemed journals as Andrology, the Journal of Biotechnology, Molecular Reproduction and Development, and Theriogenology, and several grantees presented their work at conferences and universities in Argentina, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, and the United Kingdom. For a full report on all Michelson Grant research findings to date, check out our recent blog here or view our full Research Findings listing here.

Scientific Advisory Board Meetings

The Michelson Prize & Grants program held three Scientific Advisory Board meetings, at which the board voted to approve two new projects for funding. The details of these grants will be posted on our website in the new year.

In October we had the honor of holding a board meeting at White Oak Conservation in Yulee, Florida. A former rice and tree plantation, White Oak is now one of the world’s premiere wildlife breeding, education, and training facilities. It was acquired by the Gilman family in 1938 and, in 1982, philanthropist Howard Gilman started a conservation program on the property for the purpose of housing and breeding vulnerable, threatened, and endangered species. Today, the 12,000-acre property in northeastern Florida houses over 30 species as part of their conservation breeding programs. During our visit the board was treated to a 3-hour tour and met a 6-week-old White Rhino, a pair of hand-raised cheetah sisters, and a double-wattled cassowary, to name just a few of the amazing animals on the property.

Conferences & Networking

MPG staff were also quite busy in 2015 with a robust conference schedule. This year the MPG program sponsored exhibit booths at annual meetings of the Endocrine Society, Experimental Biology, Society for Biomaterials, Society for Theriogenology, and Society of Toxicology. Conference exhibit sponsorships are an important part of our outreach strategy, as they give us the opportunity to meet face to face with top researchers in relevant fields who are capable of contributing to our mission of creating the first nonsurgical sterilant for dogs and cats. The relationships forged in these environments not only lead to new grant projects, but they have also helped us to expand and strengthen the membership of our Scientific Advisory Board.

We are indebted to Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife Alya Michelson for their generosity in funding the Michelson Prize & Grants program in its entirety as well as for their vision of a world in which the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable cats and dogs is far behind us.

From all of us at the MPG program and the Found Animals Foundation, we hope that you have a joyous holiday season and a happy New Year!

2014: A Year in Review for the Michelson Prize & Grants

As 2014 winds down, we at the Gary Michelson Prize & Grants program would like to take some time to reflect on all of the work that our applicants, grantees, board members, and program staff have carried out over the past year.

The MPG program had two milestone achievements in 2014: we received our 300th letter of intent and 100th grant proposal! Our Scientific Advisory Board voted to approve 3 new projects, the details of which will be announced in new blogs as soon as those projects are ready to begin. We will start the New Year having committed over $14 million to more than 30 approved projects worldwide.

Welcoming New Members to our Scientific Advisory Board

Members of our Scientific Advisory Board review all of the LOIs and proposals that we receive, so you can imagine how busy our advisors were this year! We were also excited to welcome the following 5 new advisors to our board:

  • Margaret Barr, DVM, PhD, a Professor of Virology and Immunology at the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine;
  • Thomas Conlon, PhD, an Assistant Professor in Pediatrics and Director of the Powell Gene Therapy Center Toxicology Core at the University of Florida;
  • Kevin Morris, PhD, a Research Scholar in Residence at the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver;
  • Amy Ross, PhD, the President of the Board of Governors of the University of Southern California Alumni Association; and
  • Marcel Van Duin, PhD, Senior Director, Reproductive Health Research at Ferring Research Institute.

You can read more about all of the advisors on our board by visiting our Scientific Advisory Board.

Our advisors also accompany program staff on site visits during the first year of every Michelson Grant-funded project. This year, advisors traveled all over the world to perform site visits with grantees in The Netherlands, Scotland, Canada, and the US.

Gary Michelson Grant Funded Projects

Our grantees have been keeping themselves quite busy as well! In May we hosted our 3rd Michelson Grantee Meeting, which brought together investigators from all over the world, Scientific Advisory Board members, and program staff during a full-day meeting consisting of plenary and small group sessions. We are always impressed by our investigators’ passion for the projects that they are working on and by the expertise and advice that they share with other Michelson grantees at these meetings. We are grateful to have been hosted by the innovative group at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, CA for this meeting and were graciously treated to an informative tour of their impressive facilities after our meeting concluded.

Five Michelson Grant-funded projects led by the following investigators were completed in 2014:

  • Meenakshi Alreja, PhD, at Yale University;
  • Cristina Gobello, MV, DVM, DECAR, at the National University of La Plata;
  • Tatiana Samoylova, PhD, at Auburn University;
  • Auke Schaefers-Okkens, DVM, PhD, at Utrecht University; and
  • Kent Van Kampen, DVM, PhD, at Vaxin Inc.

Visit our Research Findings page to learn more about the important contributions that these projects have made in the field of nonsurgical sterilization.

Michelson Prize & Grants Yearly Overview

The new and improved Michelson Prize & Grants website launched on February 25th – the 20th anniversary of World Spay Day – and we couldn’t be happier with our updated look! We hope that you have been enjoying the new Blog and FAQ features and improved navigation and presentation of our website.

The MPG program sponsored exhibit booths at 8 conferences this year including annual meetings of the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy, the Society for the Study of Reproduction, and the Society for Neuroscience. We were also incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel internationally to attend the 11th International Symposium on GnRH in Salzburg, Austria and the World Congress of Reproductive Biology in Edinburgh, Scotland. Meetings like these provide important opportunities for our program staff to meet researchers working in fields that are relevant to our mission and to inform potential applicants about our international research grants. In fact, many of the people that we’ve met at conferences like these have gone on to become Michelson grantees and members of our Scientific Advisory Board!

Every year our grantees, scientific advisors, and program staff work together to make great strides in the field of nonsurgical sterilization in our shared effort to end the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable companion animals in shelters. We are looking forward to everything that 2015 has in store for us, including more Scientific Advisory Board meetings to review new grant proposals, a summer grantee meeting, site visits for newly funded projects, and conference exhibit opportunities.

Many thanks to Dr. Gary Michelson and his wife Alya Michelson, whose generous contributions have made possible all of the MPG program’s accomplishments so far, and all of those yet to come.

We wish you and yours a safe and happy New Year!

2013: A Year in Review for the Michelson Prize & Grants

As 2013 draws to a close, we at the Michelson Prize & Grants in Reproductive Biology would like to share with you the exciting accomplishments of our program and our grantees over the past year in our shared quest to develop a nonsurgical sterilant for cats and dogs.

Since January we have received a grand total of 75 letters of intent and 22 grant proposals from investigators at academic research institutions and biotechnology firms around the world. Nine proposals totaling nearly $4 million were approved for funding which means that, to date, we have committed just over $14 million to a total of 32 projects worldwide. Read more about current Michelson Grantees on our Current Grantee Profiles page.

Michelson Grant funded projects from R. John Aitken, ScD, FRSE at the University of Newcastle, Larry Chamley, PhD at the University of Auckland, William Ja, PhD at Scripps Research Institute, Megan Lloyd, PhD at the University of Western Australia, and Ralph Meyer, PhD at Utah State University completed in 2013. Visit our Research Findings page to learn more about the important discoveries that these and other Michelson Grantees have made in their efforts to develop a nonsurgical method for spaying and neutering companion animals.

In October we held a meeting of a subset of Michelson Grantees to discuss kisspeptin and its potential role in the development of a nonsurgical sterilant for cats and dogs. Dr. Robert Steiner, a kisspeptin expert at the University of Washington, gave an informative keynote address to attendees, who included Dr. Gary Michelson, 9 investigators working on 5 Michelson Grant funded projects, members of our Scientific Advisory Board, and Found Animals and Michelson Prize & Grants staff. Grantees in attendance shared their research approaches and findings and engaged in an exciting group discussion on how to take us closer to our goal of a Michelson Prize-worthy product.

This year we welcomed 5 new members to our Scientific Advisory Board: Janet Baer, DVM, Gary Richwald, MD, MPH, Josep Rutllant, DVM, PhD, William Swanson, DVM, PhD, and Joanne Zahorsky-Reeves, DVM, PhD. We are excited about the expertise and insight that each of these new advisors brings to our program and are looking forward to working with them in the new year.

Michelson Prize & Grants program staff participated in 11 conferences in 2013 including annual meetings of the Endocrine Society, the Society for the Study of Reproduction, and the Society for Neuroscience. Sponsorship of exhibit booths at scientific meetings enables us to meet face to face with potential grant applicants and allows us to spread the word about our international research grants and prize philanthropy model to a large group of researchers involved in relevant work.

We are constantly encouraged by and thankful for the exciting progress that is made every day by our grantees, and are looking forward to another busy year of participating in scientific meetings, hosting our second meeting of all Michelson grantees in May, and launching our new website in February.

We wish you all a happy, healthy, and productive 2014!