June 01, 2023

NIH and USDA partner to promote use of animals in science

NIH and USDA partner to promote use of animals in science 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

Towards the end of last year, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a call for applications for Dual-Purpose research projects. 

The Dual Purpose with Dual Benefit: Research in Biomedicine and Agriculture Using Agriculturally Important Domestic Animal Species research grant program is an interagency partnership between NIH and USDA, to improve human health through the advancement of basic and translational research deemed highly relevant to both agricultural and biomedical research. The USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative works with other federal agencies in the United States to fund and support projects of mutual interest through Requests for Applications.

The Dual-Purpose program began in 2010 when there became a critical shortage of financial support for non-rodent species in biomedical research. This initiative is designed to facilitate and encourage comparative medicine research studies through the careful selection and refinement of farm animal models that mimic human developmental, physiological, and etiological processes. These models increase the understanding of the biology of fertility and infertility, normal and abnormal metabolism, developmental origin of diseases, and improve prevention and treatment of infectious diseases in both human and agriculturally important domestic animals. 

The Dual-Purpose interagency program supported 61 grants totaling over $107 million with 23 awards to new or early-stage investigators. A publication featured in Biology of Reproduction highlights the achievements of the Dual-Purpose program over the last 9 years. The article states several biomedical advancements made through the funding, such as: 

  • New breakthroughs to genetically modify pigs more efficiently to study human diseases
  • How diseases negatively impact brain development and function
  • Improve therapeutics to reduce the impact of uterine infections on ovarian function
  • Reduce viral infectious diseases, including rotaviruses
  • Develop vaccines against zoonotic diseases, herpes, human parasitic roundworms, salmonella, influenza, and hepatitis C
  • Reduce embryonic mortality and enhance muscle growth in low-birth-weight offspring
  • Correct nutritional problems and genetic perturbations during gestation that lead to developmental issues and increased susceptibility to neonatal and adult diseases

The article concluded that the “continuation of important cooperative programs that further strengthen ties between human medicine, veterinary medicine, and animal sciences are essential to improving animal and human health, providing enhanced applicability and return on investment in research, and supporting the development of the next generation of scientists.” 

Check out the full article here.