Advances in human health rely on valid animal models of disease. Inbred or genetically engineered rodent models can answer important questions about disease pathogenesis and test promising therapies, but can sometimes fail to predict disease responses seen in humans. Spontaneously occurring diseases in companion and other domestic animals can complement the use of engineered laboratory models to understand human diseases, especially those that involve complex genetic traits, disease-modifying gene loci, environmental-gene interactions, or chronic disease progression. Veterinary clinician-scientists have expertise in these naturally occurring animal diseases, and have much to contribute to interdisciplinary research teams that are working to solve human health problems. The purpose of this proposal is to support the development of veterinary specialists into clinician-scientists capable of being productive contributors to translational research. This proposal outlines 3 initiatives: 1) targeted post-residency Translational Research Fellowships for veterinary specialists, to perform research with inter-disciplinary teams on spontaneous diseases shared by humans and animals; 2) a Translational Research Immersion Program for early career clinical faculty, to provide key training in grant writing and mentorship, and showcase successful models of interdisciplinary research collaborations; and 3) convene Translational Research Summits for established veterinary and human medical researchers working on the same diseases, to accelerate the use of spontaneous animal models to understand human disease. The long-term goals of this Translational Research Workforce Training proposal are to catalyze interdisciplinary translational research among veterinarians, basic scientists, physicians and other human health professionals. These three initiatives will provide a generalizable model to recruit clinical specialists of all backgrounds to centers of excellence within the CTSA network, provide immersion research training for clinical faculty followed by evidence-based mentoring support, and bring together clinicians and scientists from different walks of life to collaborate around shared disease interests.
Naturally occurring (spontaneous) diseases in companion animals, such as epilepsy, glaucoma, or hemophilia, can advance our understanding of similar diseases in human patients. This proposal will support the inclusion of veterinary clinician-scientists, who have expertise in these animal diseases, in interdisciplinary research teams that can address human health problems from multiple perspectives.