Funding for health-related research dedicated to companion animals (dogs and cats) and horses, is virtually nonexistent in comparison to research funding for human and livestock animal health. The national annual $16 million investment in companion animal and equine health research is estimated to be less than 0.12% of the annual $13 billion biopharma and companion animal food industries gross sales in 2005 ($16 million figure from the 2005 Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges survey of companion animal health research conducted at US and Canadian AVMA-accredited veterinary colleges; $13 billion figure from The Pet Food Institute and companion animal product sales; see www.petfoodinstitute.org/ and www.pjbpubs.com/animalpharm_reports/Companion_Animal_Health_Products.htm#exec). Part of the reason for this is that the United States has no national organization committed solely to supporting research on health and well-being of companion animals and horses. Such state of affairs is unworthy of a wealthy nation such as ours that cares and loves animals so much and depends on them for quality of life.
Continued improvement in companion animal and equine health care requires research with specifically targeted deliverables for dogs, cats, and horses. At the currently low level of investment, most advances in animal health care applications are derived as by-products of human clinical research. While adoption and adaptation of these deliverables intended for human health can be beneficial, they often do not effectively ensure effective or sufficient advances in companion animal and equine health care. On the other hand, companion animal and equine health research often can lead to beneficial application for human health, a fact that is often overlooked.
The concept for the Institute for Companion Animal and Equine Research (ICAER) will be based on the highest quality of translational scientific research dedicated specifically to the improvement of companion animal and equine health. Through this concept and under the auspices of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the charter for the ICAER will be drafted by charter members, comprised of the 25 most-highly quoted U.S. companion animal and equine health research scientists in refereed national and international journals, to establish a non-profit research institute dedicated to dogs, cats, and horses, using the guiding principles and governance similar to those of the US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. As the concept moves forward to development, additional members of ICAER will be identified and appointed using the guidelines and principles of the National Academy of Science and the Institute of Medicine.
In order to establish perpetual funding of merit-based, competitively-awarded research, development of a capital base of at least $100 million over a 10 year period will be required to provide the dividends to sustain adequate funding of quality research focused on national priorities in companion animal and equine health. A carefully crafted 10-year campaign will need to be developed and sustained to identify on average $10 million per year increments of growth in ICAER foundation funds under the oversight of the AVMA. The plan will likely include extension activities to educate veterinarians as members of the AVMA to encourage owners of companion animals and horses and the public to support the ICAER's companion animal and equine research activities. An initial approach will encourage the extant and numerous companion animal and equine health foundations that currently fund research to coordinate their research investment activities through the ICAER critical proposal reviews. U.S. biopharma and companion animal and equine food industries will be encouraged to become sustaining members of the ICAER.
Companion animals and horses play an essential role in our society and thus deserve the highest quality of health care that can be derived from expanding our scientific knowledge and technical base. Obviously, science-based veterinary medicine is dependent upon the highest quality research focused on companion animal and equine health issues. Unfortunately, a national program with adequate resources for companion animal and equine health research does not exist. So, now is the optimal time to establish the Institute for Companion Animal and Equine Health Research with a $100 million endowment and the human resources to enable translational research that ensures the future wellness of dogs, cats, and horses. The US and the AVMA should take this opportunity very seriously to establish the Institute for Companion Animal and Equine Research.