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Summer 2003
Dr. Andrew Hoffman, director of the Lung Function Lab, is advancing the understanding of nonsurgical treatments for emphysema. “As veterinarans,” he says, “we're the bridge between animals and people, between ideas and clinical trials.”  

The Laboratories: Exploring Frontiers

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Dr. Sawkat Anwer has a true appreciation for the role of research at Tufts Veterinary School.
When he first came to Tufts 20 years ago, he was one of a handful of investigators in the school working on the study of liver physiology and pharmacology. Today, he proudly points out that the biomedical sciences department has grown to include some 25 faculty and four divisions, including the Division of Infectious Diseases, the largest single research entity at the university.

In that department alone, Distinguished Professor of Infectious Diseases Dr. Saul Tzipori recently received a $25 million contract from the National Institutes of Health as part of funding awarded to institutions across the country to fight bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases. His proposal, a collaboration among Tufts, the University of Massachusetts, the FDA, and other organizations here and abroad, seeks to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to preventing and treating different pathogens found in our water and food. The award will also establish a center for botulinum therapies research and development.

“There is a common misconception that animals are very different from humans; they’re not,” said Anwer, Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences. “The basic biology is the same across the mammalian species so it doesn’t matter whether the research is conducted at a veterinary school or medical school.”

Indeed, Tufts is well positioned to take its long-standing research focus to new heights. It is now putting finishing touches on plans for an adjoining 106-acre Tufts Science Park, slated for research and development, manufacturing, and other activities related to the biotechnology, medical device, and pharmaceutical industries.

“Tufts is an important part of the biomedical infrastructure of Massachusetts,” said Provost and Senior Vice President Jamshed Bharucha. “We’re looking forward to biotech partnerships that encompass genetic research that will train new generations of veterinary students. We see enormous possibilities for forging stronger ties to the other schools throughout the university.”

In laboratories elsewhere, faculty are investigating a wide range of questions. Dr. Robert Bridges, professor in the reproductive biology section of the Department of Biomedical Sciences, for instance, is exploring neurobiological processes underlying mammalian brain function—specifically, the mechanisms of the maternal response. Dr. Acacia Alcivar-Warren of the environmental and comparative genomics section, Department of Environmental and Population Health, conducts research on the comparative genetics of shrimp—what genes control disease resistance, how certain shrimp fight off viral diseases while others perish.

Diverse projects such as these enrich the school’s mission to educate and train highly skilled veterinarians, said Dr. Eric Overström, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences.

“Discoveries are often catalysts for keeping faculty colleagues and our students informed and inspired,” said Overström. “Much of what we do on a day-to-day basis is predicated on advancing our understanding of science and medicine. Nationally recognized clinical and basic research are consistent on the Boston campus with similar activities at the Medical and Dental schools, and if you look at the big picture, together this triad of expertise is a powerful and prestigious element of the university.”