Local Veterinary Student Wins International Award For Her Ground-breaking Research

Natalie Gibbons, 20, from Wimbledon, London, has won the Undergraduate Student Inspiration Award as part of one of the largest and most prestigious veterinary awards in the world, as she embarks on a project to combat inflammatory and auto-immune diseases in dogs using ground-breaking research in a field that has yet to be explored by veterinary scientists.

Natalie, who is part way through her veterinary course and currently studying for an intercalated degree in Comparative Pathology at the Royal Veterinary College, has won the coveted Undergraduate Student Inspiration Award of the International Canine Health Awards, where she was awarded £5,000 towards her future work.

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.

This year’s awards were presented to winners by Steve Dean, recently appointed Chairman of Trustees of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, on Friday 15th April 2016 at the Kennel Club in London, on behalf of the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation.

The awards were for the International Award, which was awarded a prize of £40,000; the Lifetime Achievement Award, which received a prize of £10,000; and Undergraduate and Postgraduate Student Inspiration Awards, with the winners of each awarded £5,000.

Natalie won the award for her proposed research into a type of canine blood cell in relation to inflammatory and auto-immune diseases. No research has yet been published on the specific canine monocyte subsets in relation to autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, so Natalie and her supervisor Professor Oliver Garden believe this work could be of enormous consequence to the treatments for canine auto-immune and inflammatory diseases.

Once Natalie’s research starts to bear results, she hopes to present her findings at veterinary conferences around Europe and the award will help to cover any costs for attending such prestigious events. The award money will also go towards laboratory consumable costs including antibodies and access to flow cytometers.

This award marks Natalie’s first milestone in her chosen veterinary medicine path of canine research. As well as studying for her degree, Natalie is an Ambassador for the Royal Veterinary College, a member of its gymnastic and cheerleading teams, and works for start-up social networking app, Wistla.

After winning the award, Natalie said: “I am very grateful to have won this award which enables me to undertake exciting work on canine monocytes in Professor Oliver Garden's Immune Regulation Laboratory at the Royal Veterinary College's Camden Campus. In common with most bench-side immunological research, the investigation of canine monocytes is resource-intense. This award will enable us to continue this important research, which will contribute to our understanding of monocytes in health and disease. The opportunity to work in a vibrant, world-renowned research environment and to make a contribution towards improving the quality of life of a species we all love is very exciting.”

The awards were judged by a panel of influential representatives from the veterinary profession and the world of scientific research. These included 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; Dr Andrew Higgins, Honorary Editor-in-Chief at the Veterinary Journal; Professor John Innes, UK Referral Director at CVS; and Steve Dean, Chairman of Trustees, the Kennel Club Charitable Trust.

After presenting Natalie with the award, Steve Dean, recently appointed Chairman of the Trustees at the Kennel Club Charitable Trust said: “Natalie represents everything that this award is about. She has shown real passion and enthusiasm towards making a career in the field of canine veterinary research, and the findings from her work could significantly improve canine health.”

Vernon Hill, Founder and Chairman of Metro Bank, and Shirley Hill, whose foundation underwrites the Awards said: “Congratulations to Natalie. Another tribute to the veterinary community.”

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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