The University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) is expanding its role as a leader in translational medicine with the launch of a new $1-million research chair focused on medical innovation.
“This position will provide more opportunities to focus on clinical research and accelerate the translation of medical innovations from laboratory to patient,” said Prof. Michelle Oblak, who has been named the first holder of the Animal Health Partners Research Chair in Veterinary Medical Innovation. “The ultimate goal of this new funding is to improve outcomes for both animal and human patients.”
The new chair position is a five-year term funded by Animal Health Partners, a veterinary emergency and specialty hospital in Toronto.
“We share many disease conditions with our animal companions. It makes sense to take a ‘one health’ approach to medical innovation, where we bring together interdisciplinary teams to apply what we learn from veterinary medicine to human care, and vice versa,” said OVC dean Jeff Wichtel.
Establishing this research chair will facilitate sharing of clinical case material, expertise and specialized equipment, and will generate new opportunities for groundbreaking comparative medical research and training. Wichtel said the new funding will catalyze a one health approach to medical innovation in areas such as surgery, oncology, imaging, radiation therapy, internal medicine, machine learning, nutrition and pathology.
“At Animal Health Partners, we are all about making a health-care impact,” said Scott Woodrow, CEO and founder of the Toronto veterinary hospital. “The Ontario Veterinary College is an ideal recipient of this $1-million gift due to their shared ethos and commitment to quality. ”
The chair will initially focus on developing innovations in image-guided intervention, said Oblak.
“We want to use technology to better understand disease through every step: before surgery, during the treatment process and after surgery,” she said. “One of the things that sets OVC apart is our comparative cancer centre. This unique centre allows us access to an advanced caseload, cutting-edge technology and a team of top clinicians and researchers – all of which works to move ideas forward. While the focus will be on cancer, there will be broad applications.”
The new chair and the partnership with Animal Health Partners will enable OVC to source more patients for clinical trials, allowing innovations to be brought to market more quickly and enabling patients to access advanced techniques, she added.
“Clinical trials are vital to veterinary medicine as well as the potential to translate innovations to human medicine. Dogs live in similar environments to humans and have similar ailments. There is a lot we can learn about treatments in animals that can then be applied to humans.”
Oblak graduated from OVC in 2008 with a D.V.Sc. in small animal surgery and completed a post-doc in surgical oncology at the University of Florida. She joined OVC’s Department of Clinical Studies in 2013.
Learn more about One Health and Veterinary Medical Innovation.
Prof. Michelle Oblak