KSU expert seeks to improve animal health

By The Mercury

Jim Riviere has big plans for the future of animal health.

Since joining Kansas State University in mid-2012, Riviere has been laying the groundwork necessary for improving the animal health industry. He is the MacDonald chair of veterinary medicine, university distinguished professor of anatomy and physiology and Kansas Bioscience eminent scholar.

Riviere is mapping space in Mosier Hall for the Institute of Computational Comparative Medicine, or ICCM, a first-of-its-kind animal health research center. The institute will combine pharmacometrics, pharmacokinetics, molecular modeling, computational epidemiology and biomathematics to develop quantitative mathematical models and computer simulations that will help scientists solve basic problems in animal health and disease.

Findings may translate to human health and food safety as well.

“This is sort of a spin off of my background with the Department of Agriculture’s Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank, or FARAD as most know it,” Riviere said. “It will leverage a lot of those strengths that exist at Kansas State University and the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor and expand them for use in even more applications.”

The institute is projected to be operational by February 2014.

Also in the works are plans to help improve the drug approval process currently used by the animal health industry. Riviere said the goal is to adopt some modern computational approaches that are used for human health drugs to simplify the approval of veterinary drugs, in which drug development companies prove to a regulatory agency that the product is effective and safe.

“It’s a humongous undertaking, but there’s no way for it not to be,” Riviere said. “Because of Kansas’ location in the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, it’s in a great position to be the instigator for conversations like this about animal health and about how to significantly improve this drug approval process through more modern approaches.”

In February, Riviere introduced the idea during a presentation to Kansas City industry scientists and research leaders. He discussed the benefits of global companies and government agencies sharing information in order to reduce duplication of time, resources and identical findings.

Riviere said the relocation of FARAD to Manhattan and the arrival of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility would be influential in advancing animal health.

The FARAD databank is a national program maintained by various universities and is focused on preventing and mitigating harmful residues of drugs, pesticides, biotoxins and other chemical agents that may contaminate foods from animals.

Riviere also has begun several projects with university faculty members.

“It’s exciting to be the new guy on the block,” Riviere said. “I’m getting a similar sense from those I meet. With Kansas State University, the Kansas City research industry, the upcoming National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility and Gov. Sam Brownback’s support, everything is starting to line up for some really good opportunities in animal health.”

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