The Veterinary Diagnostics and Infectious Disease team at Utah State University is setting out to conduct interdisciplinary research leading to commercial opportunities in the areas of infectious disease and diagnostics.VDID draws on the strengths of USU’s College of Agriculture and College of Science as it tackles a $1 billion-a-year market in the United States for animal disease screening and diagnostics.
Now the team is together in one place.
Last spring, Irina Polejaeva left ViaGen, a livestock cloning and genomic company, to take her place as one of four VDID team hires at USU. Polejaeva brings her somatic cell nuclear transfer capabilities as a USTAR researcher and associate professor in the department of animal, dairy and veterinary sciences in the College of Agriculture.
Polejaeva was joined by fellow team members Young-Min Lee, Zhongde Wang and Liaohai Chen at the beginning of January.
Lee and Wang both serve alongside Polejaeva as USTAR researchers and associate professors for the department of ADVS. Meanwhile, Chen works for the department of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Science.
Wang’s research focuses are stem cell biology, epigenetics of early embryogenesis, animal transgenesis and assisted reproduction technology. Wang designs and creates gene constructs that Polejaeva will use to genetically modify cells and then to produce transgenic large animal models by cloning.
As a molecular virologist, Lee’s research focuses on animal RNA viruses that are important human and/or veterinary pathogens. He makes use of new “infectious cDNA” technology and cell culture/animal infection systems, together with innovative techniques in molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry, to answer key questions about the viral life cycle and the cellular and host responses to viral infections.
Chen’s specialization includes sensor/assay development, molecular imaging and advanced materials – capabilities and tools necessary for the tracking and imaging of viral infections the team is looking to investigate.
“All these different expertise could feed into various projects,” Polejaeva said. “The core research can be done in house by faculty on the team and can lead to other collaborative opportunities.”
Separately, team members are working with affiliates in and outside of the VDID label on multiple projects.
Now is the time for them to collaborate.
Polejaeva, Lee, Wang and Chen are currently focusing on defining research goals and building relationships. Once settled, the team will collaboratively use animal models to study human and animal diseases — and the results could lead to various biomedical and agricultural applications with enormous commercial potential five years down the road.
The team meets with several of its affiliates every other week, where Wang noted that “different things are in discussion.” Affiliates include Ken White, Chris Davies and nine others actively involved in differing VDID-related projects.
The team has access to safe, state-of-the-art facilities armed with advanced technologies to aid in its research. VDID will use the Animal Biosafety Level 3+ laboratory in the USTAR BioInnovations Center, located on the USU Innovation Campus, as well as laboratory space that will be in the new Agriculture building on the main university campus.
The Utah Science Technology and Research initiative is a long-term, state-funded investment to strengthen Utah’s “knowledge economy” and generate high-paying jobs. Funded in March 2006 by the state legislature, USTAR is based on three program areas. The first area involves funding for strategic investments at the University of Utah and Utah State University to recruit world-class researchers. The second area is to build state-of-the-art interdisciplinary facilities at these institutions for the innovation teams. The third program area involves teams that work with companies and entrepreneurs across the state to promote science, innovation and commercialization activities.
More information about USU USTAR can be found on the website and Twitter account. More information about VDID can be found online.
Contact: Jacoba M. Poppleton; email@example.com; 435-797-9608