Spring 2018

Advancing Breakthroughs for All Species

From eradicating rinderpest to informing environmental policy, Cummings School is making our world a better place.

By Genevieve Rajewski

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For millennia, a highly contagious disease called rinderpest savaged the globe. It was almost 100-percent fatal in the cattle it infected, and millions of people dependent on their herds also died from starvation. But rinderpest was declared eradicated in 2011—only the second disease ever wiped off the Earth (the first was smallpox)—after a heat-stable vaccine developed by Cummings School veterinarian Jeffrey Mariner, V87 (above), was deployed throughout Africa by him, professor Albert Sollod, and other Tufts researchers. He and his colleagues are working to eradicate the viral disease peste des petits ruminants, a widespread killer of sheep and goats.

That’s the way it is at Cummings School: Clinicians, scientists, and educators work relentlessly to improve research and treatment, often collaborating with their counterparts in human medicine on such questions as, Can a gene-silencing therapy in development for ALS help dogs with a similar degenerative disease? These are some of the highlights.

Photo: Dave Willman

> Distinguished Professor Emerita Susan Cotter’s pioneering work on feline leukemia helped save the lives of millions of cats, and also led investigators to the revelation that a virus was behind a mysterious illness in humans that they’d come to call AIDS.

> Tufts veterinarians helped the biotech company Genzyme breed the first goats to produce a human pharmaceutical (for treating human heart attacks) in their milk.

> Professor Emeritus Nicholas Dodman’s research on drugs to manage compulsive behaviors in dogs led to Tufts patenting memantine, a new treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder in humans. Dodman and Tufts colleagues, together with researchers from Harvard, MIT, and the University of Massachusetts, also identified the first genetic mutation related to canine behavior: CDH2 in Doberman pinschers with compulsive behaviors.

Photo: Anna Miller

> At Tufts Wildlife Clinic, research by associate professor emeritus Mark Pokras, V84, on lead poisoning in loons resulted in several states banning lead fishing tackle. Studies by clinical assistant professor Maureen Murray, V03, on the risk to wildlife from anticoagulant rodenticides, was instrumental in the EPA’s decision to crack down on the poisons.

> When Karl Kraus was professor of surgery he assembled a team of engineers and surgeons to develop new devices for stabilizing orthopedic injuries in dogs and then founded the world’s largest veterinary orthopedic company.

> Tufts is one of only twenty or so academic centers in the National Cancer Institute’s Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium, a group dedicated to finding new ways to help humans and animals.

> The Henry and Lois Foster Hospital was part of a clinical trial of Tanovea, a drug being tested for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans, that led to it being only the third, FDA-approved oncology drug for exclusive use in dogs.

Photo: Kelvin Ma

> The first diagnostic test for Lyme disease was developed by Tufts veterinary researchers Andrew Onderdonk, Robert Gilfillan, and Merle Weber. Their test for dogs would later be adapted for diagnosing Lyme in humans.

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