Galey implements $100k granted for brucellosis research
Laramie – According to University of Wyoming College of Agriculture Dean Frank Galey, the $100,000 in funding granted by the 2009 Wyoming Legislature for brucellosis research would help set up an identifiable research program at UW that could then attract support for further in-depth brucellosis research.
“There’s no actual lab work associated with this particular set of money,” says Galey, noting that developing a new brucellosis vaccine will not happen quickly and it won’t be cheap. “A big part of this funding is for feasibility – is this research even possible? If we put together a program, but then everybody says it’s too expensive, then we can go back and try something different.”
“Our goal is to continue to push this issue of trying to get some funding for vaccine development, which could take 10 to 20 years and cost $20 million or more,” says Galey. “This will take years of research, and there will be blind alleys and we’ll have to start investigating with what we know.”
For now, he says the recent funding will include travel expenses and facilitate the gathering of people together to hammer out a program, and if there’s enough left over it will go toward contacting funding agencies to inquire after their interest.
“This is just a start,” says Galey of the planning. “We’re just sticking our nose in now. What the Governor and the Legislature want us to do is get the ball rolling and start looking at what it might take to get a new vaccine developed.”
Galey says he envisions two groups – one consisting of recognized scientists from around the country who can develop the scientific end of it and the second including stakeholders that would ensure accountability once the research is underway.
“The second group would include, among others, members of state government, the state veterinarians and ranchers who would look over the general direction of the research and make sure it’s being done,” explains Galey. “The idea with that group is transparency. That way folks know what’s going on, and the Legislature could be reassured the money is going in directions that will push us toward our goal.”
In addition to these interests, he hopes to include wildlife and federal government in the planning group as well.
Galey says he hopes the planning process will be set in motion as soon as possible. His next step is to talk with the Brucellosis Coordination Team at their April meeting in Cody. “I’ll advise them this funding is here and that we’re getting underway and take any comments they might have. Right after that I hope to get the ball rolling.”
He says he hopes to have the framework pulled together by the end of March. “My goal is to have some general ideas down by fall with which we can approach various legislators, but that’s all dependent on when I can get this nationally recognized group together,” he notes.
UW already has two researchers studying various aspects of brucellosis. “In terms of vaccine research, some is also being done by the USDA at their Ames, Iowa laboratory, looking at the elk immune system and why they don’t react to the brucellosis vaccines,” he says, adding that other than that he doesn’t know of any other research projects on brucellosis vaccine in the U.S.
“The new lab will be a tremendous help to this effort,” he says of the recently approved Biosecurity Level 3 (BSL-3) lab addition. “We cannot do work with brucellosis outside of these BSL-3 facilities, so if we didn’t have this facility we wouldn’t even be players.”
He says the work they’re doing right now is mostly fieldwork and projects that can be done with vaccine strains the lab can legally work with. “We’re working with surrogates right now. Once the building’s built we can work with the real bug.”
The lab has no firm completion date, but Galey hopes it’ll be one and a half to two years after the first spade hits the ground.
“The building will be critical to us to be competitive for these funds,” he says, adding that the lab space will also be available to researchers from across the country.
Galey says that although he doesn’t have a complete roadmap yet for this initial funding, the end goal is to develop a framework for the development of a brucellosis vaccine and diagnostic testing which can then be presented to potential investors and interest groups who would be interested in taking the research forward.
Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.