Friday, October 8, 2010

U of G Opens Advanced Public, Animal Health Research Facility

Guelph, Ontario October 07, 2010

Canada has strengthened its capacity to solve health problems that occur at the intersection of the human and animal worlds with a new cutting-edge research and diagnostic centre that opened today at the University of Guelph.

The Pathobiology and Animal Health Laboratory will support the growing role of veterinarians in research and teaching in public health, infectious diseases, pathology and immunology.

Researchers working in sophisticated laboratories will diagnose and study a range of animal diseases and pathogenic organisms, from bird flu and SARS to E. coli and West Nile virus. The 126,000-square-foot, four-storey structure also houses a 120-seat lecture theatre, flexible lab space, seminar rooms, teaching labs and office space.

The federal and provincial governments have invested some $62 million in this project. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada committed $37 million; the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) contributed $25 million.

“The health and safety of Ontarians and a safe food supply are top priorities for the McGuinty government,” said Carol Mitchell, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. “Our government is pleased to provide funding to the University of Guelph to help support ongoing research activities that preserve consumer confidence, protect against animal disease and demonstrate our commitment to a competitive and sustainable agri-food industry.”

U of G president Alastair Summerlee said the facility places Guelph at the forefront of improving the health of animals, humans and the environment.

“Here, current and future scientists will make and share discoveries that will improve the health and well-being of animals, people and the planet,” he said. “This new building will further our ability to identify both the risks we face and the potential benefits and treatments that can be realized by taking an integrated approach to these questions."

Veterinarians have a great deal to share about health relationships among humans, animals and the environment, added Ontario Veterinary College dean Elizabeth Stone.

“About 75 per cent of new and emerging diseases are zoonotic, transmitted from animals to humans and back again," she said. "Animal health researchers play an important role in identifying, controlling and understanding this phenomenon. We will use this knowledge to improve the health of animals and the prospects for human health, here and around the world.”

As a partner with OMAFRA in the Ontario Animal Health Surveillance Network, the U of G Animal Health Laboratory helps maintain healthy animals and safe food in Ontario by providing specialized diagnostic services for veterinarians and public- and private-sector agencies.

The new lab areas include open-concept space that encourages cross-training and staff sharing. Improved facilities also allow for better control of pathogenic organisms, said Stone.
“This will greatly improve our biosecurity and biocontainment, to protect both our staff and our clients.”

The new building fulfils a key component of OVC’s strategic vision as the college approaches its 150th birthday in 2012. Key initiatives include the OVC Health Sciences Centre with its Companion Animal Medical Complex, Large Animal Medical Complex, Hill's Pet Nutrition Primary Healthcare Centre, animal cancer centre, Equine Sports Medicine and Reproduction Centre, and large-animal isolation unit.

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