Bill Gates and GRA Eminent Scholar Steve Stice review poultry project

August 13, 2012 at 11:34 am Leave a comment

It is rare for researchers to be able to present their work-in-progress to the leader of the foundation that is supporting it.  It is rarer still when that leader is Bill Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

But that is just what the Georgia Research Alliance was able to arrange recently, bringing together Gates and GRA Eminent Scholar Steve Stice and his research team.

Armed with a $1.6 million dollar grant from the Gates Foundation, University of Georgia colleagues Stice, Franklin West, Yangqing Lu and Poultry Science faculty are collaborating with Claudio Afonso of the USDA Agricultural Research Service Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory to create disease resistant poultry.  Using a new technology – called cellular adaptive resistance (CAR) – that Stice and West developed, the initial focus is on breeding chickens resistant to Newcastle virus. According to Stice, the potential of the technology extends beyond poultry to other livestock.  “We want to provide a new way to create animals with natural resistance to specific diseases,” Stice said. “Disease and death in livestock are serious problems, particularly in underdeveloped countries.”

In the meeting with Gates, who was in Atlanta to address the Education Commission of the States, Stice presented the progress of the researchers to date and described the long-range potential of the research for improving livestock health and creating improved breeding stock, an area in which the Gates Foundation is hoping to spur transformational changes.  The economic impact of such improvements, particularly in targeted areas of Africa and India, is estimated to exceed billions of dollars annually.

Wanting to add a bit of pizazz to his slide presentation, in advance of the meeting in an Atlanta hotel, Stice, West and Lu set up a microscope to provide a live demonstration of the actual insertion of stem cells into an avian embryo.  Following Stice’s briefing, Gates peppered the researchers with questions about Newcastle Disease Virus and its spread, stem cells, the CAR technology,  and a wide range of other aspects of the project.

It was gratifying to discuss our project with Bill Gates.  The entire UGA team is highly motivated to advance our science because it offers a possible solution to a dire animal health problem that impacts Africa’s poorer farmers, many of whom are women,” commented Stice.

The Georgia Research Alliance has invested in Stice’s research since his recruitment as a GRA Eminent Scholar in 1998, including the recent acquisition of laboratory equipment key to project with the Gates foundation.  Through its VentureLab program, GRA is also working with Stice and the biotechnology company he founded to explore the development of the several technologies for use by the livestock producers.

Dr.  Stice’s dedication to improving animal and human health and his ability to help to move his research from the laboratory to industry use are extraordinary,” said GRA President Mike Cassidy.   “His work in developing Newcastle Disease-resistant chickens has vast potential impact not only in developing nations but close to home for the poultry industry so vital to Georgia’s economy.

Read more about the project here>


Entry filed under: GRA Eminent Scholars, News.

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