Winners of the First Awards Announced at this year's Crufts.


On Saturday 9th March, the founder of the Metro Bank, Vernon Hill and his wife Shirley presented the International Canine Health Awards, the largest veterinary awards in Europe, to three deserving individuals at a ceremony held at this year's Crufts Dog Show.

These awards were launched last year to recognize and reward innovative researchers, veterinary scientists and students who are making an impact on the health and wellbeing of dogs, and transforming our understanding of human diseases.

Dr.Elaine Ostrander, Dr.Gus Aguirre and a student, Emily Milodowski, who were nominated by their peers and contemporaries, were presented with prizes to a combined value of £60,000 for their pioneering work in veterinary sciences.

Dr Elaine Ostrander was chosen as the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award, for her work that has stretched over two decades, which has contributed towards developments in canine health but also transformed understanding of human diseases. She is a leading figure in canine genetics and disease. Because dogs and humans share such similar genetic make up they also suffer from the same diseases. It can be hard finding a disease gene by studying families. However canine families are large and pedigree records can be studied allowing researchers to pinpoint where they should start searching for a mutated gene. Once this gene is located humans with the same or similar diseases are checked and invariably there is a connection.

Dr Ostrander, who is from the United States, will receive a prize fund of £10,000 towards future work. Her family kept Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies, and at the present time has just lost the family Border Collie, Tess, aged 13. She was under strict instructions from her two daughters to visit Discover Dogs and send back pictures of ''cute new dogs’’.

Dr Gus Aguirre was awarded the International Prize in Canine Health for his work in the recognition of eye diseases in dogs. He has worked with Dr Ostrander, and to date has identified more than 14 different retinal genes that cause inherited blindness in more than 59 breeds of dogs.

Like Dr Ostrander, his work with retinal disease genes in canines has allowed him to identify comparative human retinal disease genes. The same treatment he used to restore a blind Briard's sight, is now being successfully used to treat human patients with eye sight defects.Dr Aguirre, residing in the United States will receive a prize fund of £40,000 to help fund future work.

Emily Milodowski, a student in her third year of her five year veterinary course, at Bristol University, is currently taking a year out to study for a BSc in Cellular and Molecular Medicine and her previous work in the prevalence and distribution of the bacteria Campylobacter, in the canine intestine, has led to her being awarded £10,000 prize to fund her future work into wound healing. Some of this research can also be extrapolated to human health where wound infections and over use of antibiotics are two of the major issues in public health. Emily came to Crufts with her proud parents and her grandmother. Emily wants to practice as a clinician but also help advance research to improve the way that veterinary clinicians can appropriately and effectively implement the best treatments.

At the time of this recession and cuts in funding they were all thrilled at the recognition for their work.

Article copyright - Stephanie Presdee