Archived News


April 27, 2004

University of California, Davis

April 27, 2004

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security today awarded an $18 million grant to the University of California, Davis, and three partner institutions to establish a national center to enhance national security against foreign animal disease and zoonotic disease threats.

Zoonotic diseases are ailments that affect both animals and humans.

The new National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense will receive the $18 million grant over three years and will be hosted by Texas A&M University, in collaboration with UC Davis, the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and the University of Southern California. The majority of the grant will go to Texas A&M and UC Davis.

"This new center will focus the efforts of scientists from throughout the United States on the pressing need for better technology, training programs and information systems to protect our food supply," said Barry Klein, vice chancellor for research. "UC Davis is honored to play a major role in this important initiative."

"Protecting our food and agriculture systems is a top priority for President Bush," said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. "Research conducted at these institutions will greatly enhance our ability to protect against animal and plant pests and diseases and food pathogens."

The researchers will focus on four diseases considered to be "clear and present threats" to animal health and to the stability of the nation's food supply and economy. These are foot and mouth disease; avian influenza; Rift Valley fever, a mosquito-borne virus common in Africa; and brucellosis, a bacterial disease that infects cattle and humans. Collectively, they affect livestock, poultry, wildlife and humans.

These diseases also were chosen because they represent both viral and bacterial diseases, some transmitted by insects and some by non-insect carriers.

"This is a unique opportunity for a consortium of academic veterinary medicine researchers to collaborate with the Department of Homeland Security, the national laboratories and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prepare for new or re-emerging infectious diseases of animals that may have major impacts on the economy or human health," said Bennie Osburn, dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

"The partnering institutions will bring to the center the expertise needed in the biological sciences, medicine and veterinary medicine, high-performance computing and economics," he said.

The center will develop new methods for detecting, diagnosing and immunizing against foreign animal diseases and zoonotic diseases. It also will develop databases and models that will help assess potential disease threats to U.S. animal agriculture.

At UC Davis, the center's research and education programs will examine diseases, such as avian influenza, whose genetic makeup changes rapidly; diseases spread by insects; diagnostic approaches to identifying disease invasions; and modeling of the economics and risk management of animal and zooonotic diseases.

During its first year, the center will involve about 12 UC Davis faculty members.

Additional information:

Texas A&M University <>

U.S. Department of Homeland Security <>

Media contacts:

* Lynn Narlesky, School of Veterinary Medicine Dean's Office, (530) 752-5257
* Pat Bailey, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-9843