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U.S. Department of Agriculture grant supports new international collaboration


BLACKSBURG, Va., Dec. 17, 2007 – A major new research and educational collaboration between the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech and Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) in Chennai, India, has been established and participants have conducted their inaugural international workshop.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “United-States India Agriculture Knowledge Initiative (AKI),” a program that seeks to enhance capacity building in food animal agricultural research and veterinary education, is supporting the new venture.

Representatives from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine’s Virginia Tech and University of Maryland at College Park campuses recently participated in a three-day, avian viral diseases and animal biotechnological applications workshop in Chennai, India as part of the project.

“The workshop in India was a truly remarkable experience,” said Dr. Roger Avery, associate dean for research and graduate studies in the college. “The enthusiasm of the participants was palpable and many opportunities for cooperation were identified. The strengths of the cooperating institutions are very complementary which means that all the partners will benefit greatly.”

In Chennai, technical sessions were conducted on emerging and trans-boundary viral diseases, viral genome studies, molecular epidemiology, poultry health and production, the development of diagnostics, and vaccines and embryo biotechnology such as in-vitro fertilization and stem cell research.

“The US-India AKI workshop was very informative, especially regarding the quality of research efforts by graduate students at Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University,” said Dr. Nammalwar Sriranganathan, a professor in the college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology and the principal investigator on the AKI grant award.

“They were extremely current in their technology and we were very impressed by their ability to answer pertinent and difficult questions from the audience” he said. “We look forward to continued cooperation in our capacity building in veterinary education and research.”

In addition to workshops such as the one held in Chennai, an exchange program between the universities has been instituted as part of recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding between Virginia Tech and TANUVAS.

“We intend to send five to six senior D.V.M. students this upcoming year for their three-week summer clinical externship to TANUVAS,” said Dr. Elankumaran Subbiah, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology and co-investigator on the AKI who was a member of the organizing committee of the workshop. “We are also planning to host four senior students and a faculty member from TANUVAS for a three-week training session in the college starting Jan. 4, 2008.”

Other college faculty members attending the workshop included Dr. Ansar Ahmed, interim head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology and director of the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infection Disease, and Dr. Ruby ParamaDhas, clinical instructor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, both from the Blacksburg campus.

Participants from the University of Maryland-College Park campus included Dr. Siba Samal, associate dean of the Maryland campus; Dr. Nathaniel Tablante, an associate professor, extension specialist, and director of the Veterinary Medical Sciences Graduate Program; Dr. Daniel Perez, associate professor; Dr. Bettye Walters, director of international programs; Dr. Utpal Pal, assistant professor; and Dr. Ioannis Bossis, assistant professor.

Dr. Chinta Lamichhane, director of Synbiotics Corporation, USA, also participated as the representative of the industrial partner for the AKI project.

The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) is a two-state, three-campus professional school operated by the land-grant universities of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and the University of Maryland at College Park. Its flagship facilities, based at Virginia Tech, include the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, which treats more than 40,000 animals annually. Other campuses include the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Va., and the Avrum Gudelsky Veterinary Center at College Park, home of the Center for Government and Corporate Veterinary Medicine. The VMRCVM annually enrolls approximately 500 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and graduate students, is a leading biomedical and clinical research center, and provides professional continuing education services for veterinarians practicing throughout the two states. Virginia Tech, the most comprehensive university in Virginia, is dedicated to quality, innovation, and results to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.