Two leading lights in canine genetic research have been recognised for going above and beyond in dog health at the second annual International Canine Health Awards.

Presented by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust’s chairman Mike Townsend at the 2014 edition of Crufts, professors from the University of Cambridge and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) were awarded a total of £50,000 to further their studies.

The awards – funded by Vernon and Shirley Hill of the Hill Family Foundation and Metro Bank – were launched in 2012, and recognise and reward innovative researchers, veterinary scientists and students who are impacting the health and well-being of dogs and, in turn, helping the understanding of human diseases.

Winning the £40,000 International Award was Robert Franklin from the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge. Considered a world-leader in central nervous system research, Prof Franklin’s work has focused on exploring whether the olfactory ensheathing cell (OEC) from a dog’s nose could be used to encourage nerve regrowth in dogs with spinal cord injury. With colleagues, Prof Franklin transplanted the OEC cell into the injured spinal cord of a dog, which helped to recover some movement in dogs that had lost the use of their hind legs.

Prof Franklin said it was a “huge honour” to receive recognition, for which he was “immensely grateful“.

Winning the £10,000 Lifetime Achievement Award, meanwhile, was ophthalmologist Peter Bedford. Prof Bedford, emeritus professor at the RVC, was awarded for his ongoing commitment to developing and improving the use of ocular disease control schemes. A past-president of both the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), Prof Bedford has given support and advice with primary open-angle glaucoma, and has worked with the border collie, British Briard and petit basset Griffon Vendeen breed clubs to institute eye testing schemes.

Prof Bedford said the award meant a “great deal” to him, and the work he was being awarded for had “only been possible through close collaboration with dog breeders”. 

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