Two CVM equine graduate students nominated for Early Stage Investigator Award

June 5, 2019

Out of the 23 veterinary graduate students nationwide who applied for the Early Stage Investigator Award, Elaine Norton, DVM, MS, PhD student, and Sian Durward-Akhurst, BVMS, MS, PhD student, have both been selected as finalists. Only five finalists were chosen. The five finalists have been invited to give a presentation at the National Veterinary Scholars Symposium in July. At the symposium, the first, second, and third place awards will be given based on the basis of scientific merit, overall quality of presentation, and presenters’ responses to questions. Durward Akhurst and Norton have also been invited to attend the “Becoming Faculty” workshop sponsored by the Burroughs-Wellcome trust.

Norton’s research centers around equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), a metabolic derangement in horses. EMS is defined by increased insulin resistance and has been described as an animal model for type two diabetes in humans. She uses genome-wide association studies and next-generation sequencing technologies to look at associations between known EMS phenotypes, metabolic derangements, and breed susceptibility to identify genes and putative functional alleles associated with EMS and laminitis risk.

Durward-Akhurst’s research goals are to identify disease-causing genetic mutations that cause equine genetic diseases. By identifying a disease-causing genetic mutation, Durward-Akhurst hopes to develop affordable genetic tests that allow veterinarians to easily and non-invasively diagnose patients. This will also allow breeders to make educated breeding decisions that decrease the frequency of the disease in their herd. Identifying the gene causing a given disease also improves scientific understanding of why that disease occurs, and may help develop new treatments to improve the prognosis.

The award is sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.