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New Research Network Aims to Protect Food Supply

The University of Massachusetts Amherst will be the lead research center in a global effort to develop the tools needed to create vaccines and tests for infectious animal diseases that threaten agriculture and the food supply. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that the project, led by UMass Amherst veterinary immunologist Cynthia Baldwin, should accelerate the characterization and treatment of a range of ailments such as mad cow disease and avian influenza.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst will be the lead research center in a global effort to develop the tools needed to create vaccines and tests for infectious animal diseases that threaten agriculture and the food supply. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that the project, led by UMass Amherst veterinary immunologist Cynthia Baldwin, should accelerate the characterization and treatment of a range of ailments such as mad cow disease and avian influenza.

"Many diseases, in addition to being a health threat, have the potential to endanger global food supplies and national economies," said Joseph Jen, USDA undersecretary for research, education and economics. "UMass Amherst took the lead in recognizing the need to coordinate an international effort-it will provide critical tools that can be used immediately by scientists in their research areas." The USDA is funding the initiative with a $2.1 million grant to develop these biological tools, known as reagents.

The new U.S. Veterinary Immune Reagent Network will coordinate the efforts of the veterinary immunological research community as it addresses key obstacles to understanding how to best control and prevent animal diseases. Work will focus on six economically important species and their relatives: cattle, poultry, horses, swine, catfish and salmonids. More than 40 scientists from universities, institutes, USDA labs and industry will participate in the research.


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