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Yasuko Rikihisa, PhD, researcher at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, wins prestigious international veterinary award

Posted: June 5, 2018

[Provided courtesy of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust]

Yasuko Rikihisa, PhD, University Distinguished Professor, The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, won the coveted International Award category at the International Canine Health Awards, where she was awarded £40,000 (approximately $53,000) towards her future work. Rikihisa was recognized for her ground breaking work into a number of tick-borne diseases that infect dogs, other companion animals and humans. The international award is part of one of the largest and most distinguished veterinary awards in the world, the International Canine Health Awards.

The awards, which are run by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust and underwritten by a major gift from Vernon and Shirley Hill of Metro Bank, highlight those individuals who go one step further to promote the health and wellbeing of dogs through their work in the world of veterinary science.

This year’s awards were presented to winners by Dr Andrew Higgins, Honorary Editor-in-Chief at the Veterinary Journal and judge for the awards, on Tuesday 22nd May at the Kennel Club in London, on behalf of the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation.

Rikihisa has been a pioneer and prolific contributor to our understanding of Rickettsial diseases, which affects dogs, other companion and wild animals and humans, transmitted by ticks. Ticks have been long known to be a source of infectious diseases in both animals and humans, and the results of Rikihisa’s decades of research into this area have directly lead to the development of the diagnostic tests used in veterinary practices around the world to identify dogs infected with one particular Rickettsial disease called Ehrlichiosis (also known as canine typhus). This is a debilitating and often fatal condition caused by a parasite that infects and survives within the white blood cells of its host.

During the 1980s, Rikihisa developed a method for growing Ehrlichia organisms in laboratory culture, a pre-requisite for carrying out research into how the parasite interacts with its host. This development supported her later research into diagnostic methods which have allowed fast and accurate diagnosis at an earlier stage of the disease, improving the prospects for effective treatment and reducing the risk of the infection being passed on to other dogs.

Rikihisa is a highly respected author, contributing 277 peer-reviewed papers in the scientific literature and 27 chapters in books and conference proceedings. In 2012 she was elected a member of the prestigious US National Academy of Sciences for her contributions in this area, where she became a sought-after expert and international contributor to the knowledge base in tick-borne diseases. She has also been granted 18 US and related international patents on the discoveries from her research portfolio.

With the £40,000 she was awarded at the International Canine Health Awards, Rikihisa hopes to continue to support a research project within her laboratories at the College of Veterinary Medicine at The Ohio State University, which it is hoped will eventually lead to the first vaccine treatment for canine Ehrlichiosis. Although much of her research is focussed on developing methods `for controlling human diseases, the funding she received for this award will be deployed to directly benefit canine health in the field of tick-borne infectious diseases.

After receiving her award, Yasuko said: “It’s a great honour to receive this award. We are currently working hard to develop a vaccine for canine Ehrlichiosis and the award money will really help towards this.”

Rustin Moore, DVM, PhD, dean of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said: “Professor Rikihisa is a role model of research excellence and tenacity in understanding and solving unmet needs in canine health and research, as well as commercializing her research to benefit animals through diagnostics and therapeutics. The college is pleased and excited to see her recognized for her influential and impactful work and contributions.”

The International Canine Health Awards were awarded in five categories: the International Award, which was awarded a prize of £40,000; the Lifetime Achievement Award, which received a prize of £10,000; the Postgraduate Student Inspiration Award, which was awarded a prize of £10,000; the Undergraduate Student Inspiration Award, which received a prize of £5,000; and the Breed Health Coordinator Award, which received a prize of £1,000. Nominations for the awards were judged by a panel of influential representatives from the veterinary profession and the world of scientific research.

This year’s judges for the International and Lifetime Awards were Dr Andrew Higgins, Honorary Editor-in-Chief at the Veterinary Journal; Dr Siraya Chunekamrai, Vice President of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association; Professor David Argyle, Dean of Veterinary Medicine and Head of School, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh; Nick Blayney, veterinary surgeon and veterinary advisor to the Kennel Club; Professor Holger Volk, Professor of Veterinary Neurology

and Neurosurgery and Head of Department of Clinical Science and Services, Royal Veterinary College (winner of the International Award in 2016); Professor Oliver Garden, Chair of Department of Clinical Studies-Philadelphia at Penn Vet (winner of the International Award in 2017); and Paul McGreevy, Professor of Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare Science at the Faculty of Veterinary Science University of Sydney (winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017).

Professor Steve Dean, chairman of trustees of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which runs the International Canine Health Awards, said: “Many congratulations to Professor Rikihisa for winning the International title. These awards were created to recognise talented individuals such as Yasuko, whose revolutionary research on vector-borne parasites is making a difference to the health of dogs all over the world. The contribution of ticks in the spread of parasitic illness is fully deserving of our attention and it is clear to see why Professor Rikihisa is so respected in the veterinary community. We are very much looking forward to seeing more ground breaking achievements from her in the future.”

Vernon Hill, founder and chairman of Metro Bank, and Shirley Hill, whose foundation underwrites the awards said: “Congratulations to Yasuko on her win – her work into tick-borne diseases is incredibly impressive, and we are pleased to recognise her many years of work with this award. We want to wish her the best of luck for the future – we are sure she will achieve further greatness within her field.”

Category : General