Infectious diseases are a leading cause of death worldwide and a major threat to the world’s food supply and natural resources. Modern science has the potential to control this threat, but the challenge requires a strategic, interdisciplinary research approach. The Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) at Ohio State is meeting that challenge, and College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) faculty are leading the way.
Dr. Michael Oglesbee, professor of Veterinary Biosciences, has been named director of the nstitute, which consists of six interdisciplinary research networks (programs) that span nine colleges at Ohio State and the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. In addition, CVM faculty hold leadership positions roles as program directors in half of the Institute’s programmatic areas:
- Tom Wittum, professor and chair of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, is a director of the Antimicrobial Resistance program
- Prosper Boyaka, professor of Veterinary Biosciences, is a co-director of the Host Defense and Microbial Biology program
- Shan-Lu Liu, professor of Veterinary Biosciences, and Linda Saif, professor of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, are directors of the Viruses and Emerging Pathogens program
IDI has a team-based approach, with expertise in an unmatched range of disciplines and a comprehensive research agenda built around its highly interconnected thematic programs which include, in addition to the above, Ecology, Epidemiology and Population Health; Microbial Communities; and Prevention, Detection and Therapies.
This team-based approach is reflected in its horizontal model, said Oglesbee. “There is no one college or center that dominates the Institute,” he said. “The CVM is highly represented, as are the Colleges of Medicine; Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FAES); and Arts and Sciences. Faculty, students and staff in the Colleges of Dentistry, Engineering, Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health play additional key roles, and ongoing efforts will expand the number of participating colleges.”
The CVM’s strong role in the Institute reflects its investment and excellence in infectious disease research and education, signified by the college’s Infectious Diseases Signature Program. The college has 33 tenure track faculty engaged in infectious disease research, representing approximately 15% of the university community. Partnerships between the Infectious Diseases Institute and the Signature Program have supported education and stewardship efforts at the university related to the appropriate use of antibiotics in human and animal medicine. Through a joint investment of the Institute and the CVM, the Veterinary Medical Center has launched an infection control and antibiotic stewardship program, representing one of the few institutions in the nation with the potential to link such efforts between veterinary medicine, human medicine and animal agriculture.
The Institute has also helped recruit and fund top faculty talent into the CVM Infectious Diseases Signature Program. To date, six research-intensive infectious disease faculty have been hired into the departments of Veterinary Biosciences and Veterinary Preventive Medicine through Institute initiatives. The most recent hire is Dr. Vanessa Hale, a veterinarian studying the ecology of microbes and how changes in communities of microorganisms may contribute to disease – an area at the forefront of infectious disease research and education.
“Combatting the challenge of infectious disease requires that we bring together a range of disciplines, from basic to translational, with focus at both the individual and population level, and focus on modeling, microbial ecology, and prevention as well as treatment,” Oglesbee noted. “Veterinary medicine is uniquely positioned to be a leader in these interdisciplinary efforts because of our comparative approach. We are the universal puzzle piece in building the larger picture.”