Texas A&M AgriLife Research announced that the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD), a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Center of Excellence, have been awarded a $1.2 million contract (under contract number D15PC00280) by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate to develop and implement a nationwide scientific business development and management educational program. The successfully funded proposal is titled “From the Bench to the Shop: Creation and Implementation of a Scientific Business Development and Management Program to Transition High Consequence Livestock Disease Research and Development Technologies for Commercialization.”
DHS invited the submission of proposals with innovative approaches to develop training programs for preparing next-generation transboundary animal disease (TAD) scientists to respond against these diseases. Awarded proposals support preparation for the United States National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF)’s new state-of-the-art biocontainment facility, which will study emerging transboundary animal diseases (TAD) that threaten United States animal agriculture and public health. This new facility will replace DHS’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center – the primary facility conducting TAD research in the U.S. – in 2022.
Texas A&M’s project will develop a novel training curriculum to equip next generation scientific professionals with the skill sets required to transition research discoveries (for example, vaccines or diagnostics) to the marketplace. The lead team includes: Principal investigator Angela Arenas, DVM, Ph.D., Dip ACVP, assistant professor in the CVM Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB); Co-principal investigator Rosina C. Krecek, FRSSAf, PhD, MBA visiting professor in the CVM VTPB, and interim assistant dean of One Health; and Co-principal investigator Heather Simmons DVM, MSVPH, IIAD education program manager.
The training curriculum will include skills needed to take a scientific discovery successfully to the marketplace. The course includes a three-week international experiential short course and a capstone project. The business plan portion of the program will also recruit three Texas A&M dual degree DVM-MBA, MD-MBA, and/or MBE-MBA students to work with a mentor at the Texas A&M Mays Business School.
The contract was officially awarded on September 25, 2015, and recruitment of trainees will begin immediately. A competitive national search to attract trainees who are early career scientists, post-doctoral candidates, and graduate students will take place from October to December 2015. Land-grant institutions, minority-serving institutions, DHS-sponsored educational programs, and other institutions with next-generation work force candidates who will benefit from this training are invited to apply.
“As a whole, this program will be vital to workforce development in the U.S.—particularly for the new NBAF,” said Gerald Parker, DVM, Ph.D., M.S., IIAD interim director. “It will truly focus on soft skill sets and commercialization, teaching researchers how to take their product where it needs to go for widespread commercial adoption and success.” The program is being developed using a large-scale national and international consortium of federal partners, industry, international groups, and academia. Development of such a program requires a multidisciplinary partnership from multiple groups and organizations for trainees to understand the entire skill set required to take a research and development product to commercialization.
This program will be based at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas and involves a wide team of partners, which includes Colorado State University, University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Kansas State University, and Agricultural Research Council-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute in South Africa. Texas A&M partners include: Texas A&M AgriLife Research; Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service; Texas A&M One Health Initiative; Mays Business School; Texas A&M College of Medicine (Health Science Center); Research Compliance and Biosafety. Industry partners include: BioMARC, Caliber Biotherapeutics, Bänziger Consultants, and Safevet. United States government partners include: DHS’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Food and Drug Administration; and the Department of Health and Human Services.
“This is the first contract of its kind for the CVM, and no other educational program to our knowledge exists with these capabilities. High-consequence TAD threaten our livestock, wildlife, and human populations, and the environment facilitates transmission of these diseases globally. TAD is a societal need, and this awarded program embraces the One Health approach through collaborative multidisciplinary teams seeking solutions. This program also dovetails into the BioCorridor Research Valley training in its commercialization of discoveries,” said Dr. Eleanor Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine.
“This project is a major undertaking and promises to be successful because of its collaborative, multidisciplinary nature. This is a first of its kind and has brought together a team with the proven track records, skills, and commitment. This project supports the goals of Texas A&M AgriLife Research,” said Craig Nessler, Ph.D., AgriLife Research director.