Ontario researcher earns international award for heightened immune response detection technology
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contributed photo: Bonnie Mallard, centre, and her team that developed technology to identify cattle with heightened immune response to disease
by SUSAN MANN
Technology developed by University of Guelph researcher Bonnie Mallard and her team to help identify cattle with a heightened immune response to diseases has won one of 10 Dairy Innovation Awards at the World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin.
Mallard, an immunogeneticist at the university’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) department of pathobiology, says the awards are handed out annually for new technologies “that they think are game changers.”
The purpose of her technology, called High Immune Response, is to select cattle for disease resistance.
Mallard says she was thrilled when she found out her technology won an award. “I think it’s the dream of every researcher to take some fundamental idea and do the basic research and then the applied research and then the market research. We’ve done all of that here.”
The University of Guelph owns the technology and last year issued an exclusive license to the Semex Alliance to identify bulls with “superior immunity.” Semex’s High Immune Response sires are known as Immunity + bulls.
Mallard says her lab does the blood and skin measurement test for Semex on their dairy and beef bulls. But the test can also be used for females, calves and mature animals. It can even be used for pigs.
There’s a genetic basis to the immune system and if “there is a defect there are serious disease consequences,” notes Mallard.
It’s very rewarding to see her work being used by the industry, she says.
Mallard says her innovation is also good for consumers because “healthy animals produce better and safer dairy products. It’s based on an individual cow’s natural ability to make an immune response so we’re not using genetic modifications.” BF