Winners Of The International Canine Health Awards Announced At This Year's Crufts Show

Two professors regarded as leading lights in the field of canine genetic research have today received recognition for consistently going 'above and beyond' for the benefit of dog health at the second annual International Canine Health Awards.

Dedicated and innovative professors, Robin Franklin, from Cambridgeshire and Peter Bedford, from Hertfordshire were presented with the International Award and Lifetime Achievement respectively by Chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, Mike Townsend during a ceremony at this year's Crufts being held at the NEC in Birmingham.

The largest and most prestigious veterinary awards in the world, the International Canine Health Awards highlight those individuals who go that one step further to promote the health and wellbeing of dogs with their revolutionary work in the world of veterinary science.

The worthy winners of this year's coveted awards were awarded prize money to help further their work in the field of canine research. Professor Robin Franklin was awarded £40,000 for the International Award and Professor Peter Bedford was awarded £10,000 for the Lifetime Achievement Award, generously funded by Vernon and Shirley Hill of the Hill Family Foundation and Metro Bank.

Metro Bank, the revolutionary high street bank which is about to open its 26th store in Epsom, prides itself on putting customers and their needs first, and this includes its innovative Dogs Rule ethos. The bank welcomes customers and their pets into its stores, and supports regular canine friendly events including adoptathons and micro-chipping. It also waives adoption fees for any customers looking to adopt a pet through Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

Launched at Crufts in 2012, the Awards were developed to recognise and reward innovative researchers, veterinary scientists and students who are significantly impacting the health and well-being of dogs, and in turn are actually helping to transform our understanding of human diseases. The awards are judged by a panel of influential representatives from the veterinary profession and the world of scientific research.

Professor Franklin was awarded the International Prize in Canine Health for his world-leading work in how healing and repair in the central nervous system works.

His work focused on exploring whether a specialised cell from a dog's nose, called an olfactory ensheathing cell (OEC), could be used to encourage nerve regrowth in dogs with spinal cord injury. Together with colleagues Nick Jeffery and Nicholas Granger, they transplanted the OEC cell into the injured spinal cord of a dog - the first time such a procedure had been used in clinical surgery, in any species, and which succeeded in helping dogs that had lost the use of their hind legs recover an impressive degree of movement.

The impressive work Professor Franklin has undertaken with dogs and spinal cord injury is a small part of his wider work, most of which is centred around the biology of regenerating oligodendrocytes, the myelin forming cells of the Central Nervous System, from stem cells already present in the Central Nervous System. This has particular relevance to multiple sclerosis in humans.

Speaking of receiving the International Award as part of the International Canine Health Awards, Professor Franklin said: "It is huge honour to receive recognition for the work I have done towards developing new therapies for the treatment of devastating neurological diseases in dogs and other species, including humans, for which I am immensely grateful."

Professor Peter Bedford was chosen as the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award for his ongoing and inspirational commitment to developing and improving the use of ocular disease control schemes during his well-established career. He has given unbelievable support and advice in relation to Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma, an eye condition that can cause pressure within the eye causing pain and at worst blindness since the condition was first diagnosed in 1996.

Professor Bedford has worked with breed clubs including the Border Collie Club, the British Briard Club and the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen Club to help to institute eye testing schemes for the breeds. Peter has also worked with last year's winner of the International Canine Health Awards International Prize, Dr. Gustavo Aguirre, at the University of Pennsylvania looking at hereditary retinal disease.

Professor Bedford was President of the BSAVA in 1982-1983. During this year he founded the European Society of Veterinary Ophthalmology, from which has grown the European College. He later became WSAVA President from 1994-1996.

Speaking of receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the International Canine Health Awards, Professor Bedford said: "This award means a great deal to me. The work that I have done in hereditary ocular disease has only been possible through close collaboration with dog breeders and this award recognises this collaboration. Fortunately awareness of these diseases is so much better today, however I hope that the existence of this award will go on telling people that we should all aim to produce healthy pedigree dogs and that the Kennel Club is right behind all such efforts."

Vernon Hill, Founder and Chairman of Metro Bank, and Shirley Hill, whose foundation underwrites the Awards said: "We're very proud to sponsor these prestigious awards, which demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the health and wellbeing of our canine friends. Dogs Rule at Metro Bank, and we host regular events to support this important part of our culture. We also invite our customers and their dogs into all our stores, and offer dog biscuits and bowls of water to make sure we keep them happy - we love our customers and we know our customers love their dogs."

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