Dr Danika Bannasch International Prize in Canine Health Winner 2019

Even as a teenager Danika Bannasch had a clear idea of where her destiny lay, writing in her high school year book of her ambition to become a dog geneticist. At that time in the early 1980s, such a role scarcely existed but with the emergence of powerful new gene analysis techniques, she had the talent, vision and energy to make an indelible mark on this fast-developing field.

Dr Bannasch gained her first degree in genetics at UC Davis before going to Princeton University for a PhD working on gene function in laboratory mice. She then returned to California to study veterinary medicine and stayed on to combine her passion for genetics with her longstanding desire to help improve the health and welfare of the dog population.

Initially as a postgraduate researcher and later as head of the school’s veterinary genetics service, she has made significant contributions to our understanding of the genetic basis of many different genetic disorders. She is responsible for the development of genetic tests for seven different diseases in dogs, including the hormonal defect hyperadrenocorticism and the bone development condition chondrodystrophy. Identifying the specific mutation responsible for an inherited disorder helps guide both the development of novel treatments and allows informed decisions in future breeding programme. Dr Bannasch has also been a strongly positive influence on the careers of younger researchers, having trained 15 graduate students and is currently mentoring a further four. This award will allow her to employ another graduate student who can help drive further developments in the clinical discipline that has been her lifelong passion.

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