Fatai Oladunni, DVM, MS, a PhD candidate at the University of Kentucky (UK) Gluck Equine Research Center recently received an American Quarter Horse Foundation Young Investigator Award to study how equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) suppresses type-1 interferon (IFN, a large subgroup of interferon proteins that help regulate immune system activity) responses.

“Funding agencies are a vital part of the research process,” Oladunni said. “Without the help of groups like the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) it would be difficult or impossible to make progress in the world of science. For this reason, I am genuinely grateful to AQHA for selecting my work amongst the pool of other great ideas.”

Oladunni’s mentor, Thomas Chambers, PhD, professor at the Gluck Center, said 100 years ago viruses were just being discovered to be causes of infectious diseases.

“Over that century we have made great strides in controlling some viruses like rabies,” said Chambers. “With the equine herpesviruses we have made a lot of progress, but this is still a complicated issue and there is plenty of work left to do.”

Training the next generation of equine infectious disease researchers is also one of the Gluck Center’s most important missions.

“We are grateful to AQHA for their support of young investigators like Fatai who bring fresh energy and new approaches to solving the problems of equine health and disease,” Chambers said.

Oladunni said he hopes his research will help to identify certain critical steps in the virus replication cycle, which is indispensable for its ability to infect host cells.

“I also hope to unravel how the host type-I IFN response is dampened as a consequence of EHV-1 infection,” he said. “Data from this study could also be useful in identifying key EHV-1 protein targets that can serve as protective vaccine candidates. These are some of the immediate knowledge gaps that this research aims to fill.”
Oladunni will receive the more than $19,000 award for the “Elucidation of the Mechanism of Suppression of Type-1 IFN Response by Equine Herpesvirus-1” research project later this year. The project will begin in October.

Author: Jenny Evans