James Swann - Student Award winner 2015

James Swann, 27, from Colchester, has won one of three awards available as part of the largest and most prestigious veterinary awards in Europe, to help further his pioneering work into a fatal autoimmune disease in dogs.

James, who studied Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge and who now works as a Senior Clinical Training Scholar in Small Animal Internal Medicine at the Royal Veterinary College, has won the coveted International Canine Health Awards in the category of postgraduate student.

The awards, run by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust and underwritten by  a major gift from Vernon and Shirley Hill of Metro Bank, highlight those individuals who go one step further to promote the health and wellbeing of dogs through their work in the world of veterinary science.

James Swann won his award for the research he is doing into immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia (IMHA), a deadly autoimmune disease that causes death in as many as 70 percent of dogs that are affected. He aims, through his research, to not only improve treatment of the disease but also decrease the mortality rate.

His current research, for which he received a £12,000 grant from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, is focusing on the role of T cells, which appear to regulate the immune system, and looking at whether dogs with the disease have decreased levels of these cells or if the cells do not function.

This award is a crowning achievement on an early career of successes. James was awarded the LP Pugh Medal for Veterinary Medicine for getting the highest results in his veterinary medicine degree at Cambridge. He has authored and co-authored papers related to IMHA in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine and the Journal of Small Animal Practice. He has also lectured at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) Conference in 2013 on the subject of IMHA.

Speaking about the award, he said: “I am honoured to receive such a prestigious award for work that I am so passionate about. IMHA is a disease that has a horrible impact on the dogs that suffer from it and thanks to the Kennel Club Charitable Trust funding I have been able to research the immunological disturbances underlying the disease. At the moment, treatment is based on steroid medications that cause a large number of side effects and are not always effective in dogs.  With the money from this award I intend to look at therapies used in human medicine and I hope to be able to learn more about adoptive transfer of cells that regulate the immune system as a possible treatment option for autoimmune diseases.”

The winners of this year’s awards were presented by Mike Townsend, Chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, on Thursday 25th June 2015 at the International Conference on Advances in Canine and Feline Genomics and Inherited Disease, this year organised by the Animal Health Trust. The awards were for the Postgraduate Student, International Award and Lifetime Achievement Award and include prize money of £5,000, £20,000 (for each of the two winners) and £10,000 respectively.

The awards are judged by a panel of influential representatives from the veterinary profession and the world of scientific research. These include Professor Peter Bedford, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Ophthalmology at London University; Nick Blayney, Veterinary Surgeon and veterinary advisor to the Kennel Club; Professor Robin Franklin, Professor of Stem Cell Medicine at Cambridge University; Professor Alan Kelly, Emeritus Dean, Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Professor Donald Kelly, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Pathology, University of Liverpool; Professor Bennie Osburn, Emeritus Dean, UC Davies School of Veterinary Medicine and mike Townsend, Chairman of Trustees, the Kennel Club Charitable Trust.

Mike Townsend, Chairman of Trustees at the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which runs the awards, said: “James represents everything that this award is about. He has shown passion and commitment to advancing dog health and has gone the extra mile to not only share his knowledge and expertise with the rest of the profession but also in ensuring that his research helps to make a real difference clinically to dogs lives.”

Vernon Hill, Founder and Chairman of Metro Bank, and Shirley Hill, whose foundation underwrites the Awards said: “As dog lovers ourselves, whose business is built around welcoming man’s best friend, we’re very proud to sponsor these prestigious awards and hope that the money will help James to further his research and find new therapies that will help to treat this disease more effectively and in less invasive ways.”

Nominations are currently being sought for the next awards which will be presented at a ceremony at the Kennel Club in London on 24th May 2017. With a prize fund totalling £65,000, the Kennel Club Charitable Trust is urging people to nominate themselves or their peers by 13th February 2017. The awards will be judged by representatives from the veterinary profession and the world of scientific research, including experts in each of the nominees' selected fields. For more information about how to apply visit the Kennel Club website now.

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