USAID Feed the Future awards WSU $6 million for Animal Health Innovation Lab

Infectious animal diseases pose critical challenges for livestock health and production, economic growth, food security and safety, and consequently human health and nutrition.

PULLMAN, Wash. – A new $6 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will enable Washington State University’s Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges in agriculture and food security.

The 5-year grant, which has an opportunity to grow to $16 million, will be used to develop a regional Feed the Future Animal Health Innovation Lab and research program, based in Nairobi, Kenya. The lab will identify interventions to address livestock diseases, particularly East Coast Fever (ECF), and develop capacity in-country in both research training and institutional development for long-term impact.

The Allen School’s Global Health – Kenya will lead the Feed the Future Animal Health Innovation Lab program taking an interdisciplinary approach to addressing livestock diseases, working in partnership with scientists from the University of Nairobi, International Livestock Research Institute, Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization, and the Kenya Medical Research Institute.

“Twelve African countries are affected by East Coast Fever, impacting approximately 20 million small scale livestock holders. With high livestock mortality and morbidity comes lowered household incomes and related degradation of social and nutritional health,” said Dr. Thumbi Mwangi, associate professor at the Allen School and Animal Health Innovation Lab director.

Infectious animal diseases pose critical challenges for livestock health and production, economic growth, food security and safety, and consequently human health and nutrition. Controlling ECF will enhance livestock productivity, household incomes, food security and nutrition, and ultimately human health and welfare.

The Feed the Future Animal Health Innovation Lab will employ state-of-the-art technologies including CRISPR-Cas to develop pen-side diagnostics and improve ECF vaccines; deploy animal health interventions and track their impact on livelihoods and human health; and train the next generation of animal health scientists in East Africa.

“A small group of animals can sustain many families for many years. On the other hand, their loss to disease can compromise food security for entire communities. As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of Feed the Future, we are reminded that without sustained food security, we risk economic prosperity and the potential for long and healthy lives,” stated Bonnie Glick, deputy administrator, USAID. “The new Animal Health Innovation Lab, in partnership with Washington State University, goes beyond just agriculture or food—through research and innovation, the new Lab will help us work towards a more prosperous and resilient future.”

Improving the control of animal diseases is critical in reducing malnutrition and improving livelihoods of livestock-dependent communities in many settings in low- and middle-income countries with unacceptably high malnutrition levels, disproportionally affecting children under 5 years of age and women of reproductive age.

Thumbi added, “We are honored and eager to work with the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative to support families and improve their household economies by mitigating poor animal health in the eastern, southern and central Africa regions.”

Feed the Future works hand-in-hand with partner countries to develop their agriculture sectors and break the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger. We are helping people feed themselves and creating important opportunities for a new generation of young people, while building a more stable world.

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