Research Centers & Initiatives

At Penn Vet, our challenge is to advance the field of veterinary medicine, and by extension, all science.

The work we do here is diverse—from dinosaurs to dogs, from cytokine biology to cell engineering, from mitochondria to mapping avian flu outbreaks, our researchers are in constant motion, advancing the scientific knowledge base.

Learn about the many ways Penn Vet's world-renowned researchers push the boundaries of scientific discovery by reading about our groundbreaking initiatives and research centers.

Research Initiatives

A few of our breakthrough research initiatives include:

Canine Cancer Studies and Immunotherapy

  • Focusing on canine cancer, Dr. Nicola Mason and her team of researchers focus on developing novel approaches to generate functional, tumor-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes. One approach involves active immunization using whole tumor RNA loaded CD40 activated B cells, aimed at activating tumor specific T cells in vivo.
  • Learn more about canine cancer research...

Comparative Orthopedic Research

  • The Comparative Orthopedic Research Laboratory (CORL) at New Bolton Center has extensive experience testing novel orthopedic trauma systems in a variety of models in both academic and industrially-driven settings. This uniquely qualifies this team to advise and assist with all stages of project development and device testing. CORL's excellently equipped facilities enable in vitro and ex vivo pre-surgical planning, test article design and development as well as mechanical testing.
  • Learn more about CORL...

Epilepsy Studies

  • Dr. Charles Vite, DVM/PhD, and his lab study diseases of the brain including epilepsy, neurodegenerative processes, and neurodevelopmental processes, with the goal of improving the diagnosis of disease using nuclear magnetic resonance methods and clinical trials to assess the efficacy of new therapies for currently untreatable disease.
  • Learn more about the Vite Lab and their studies...

The impact of Stress on Neurodevelopment

  • The mammalian placenta is more than just a filter through which nutrition and oxygen are passed from a mother to her unborn child. According to a new study by Dr. Tracy Bale and her research team, if a mother is exposed to stress during pregnancy, her placenta translates that experience to her fetus by altering levels of a protein that affects the developing brains of male and female offspring differently.
  • Learn more about Dr. Bale's research on stress...

Studies in Canine Blindness

  • Dr. Aguirre’s laboratory are actively engaged in multiple research projects relating to the inheritance of retinal degenerations in dogs, humans, and other mammals. These include efforts to identify the genes and locate the mutations associated with several separately inherited forms of progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), a significant disease of dogs that is also the genetic analog of retinitis pigmentosa, a group of retinal degenerations inherited in human families. In parallel to these studies, Dr. Aguirre is involved in developing or applying novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of inherited retinal degenerations. 
  • Learn more about Dr. Aguirre and his research...

Swine Feeding & Reproduction Studies

  • Designed for applied swine research and the teaching of swine production medicine, the Swine Teaching and Research Center at New Bolton Center was opened in January 2001. This innovative Center provides a crucial link between Penn Vet and the Pennsylvania swine industry by serving as a model modern and humane swine facility.
  • Learn more about the Swine Teaching & Research Unit...

Research Centers

Penn Vet's research centers are recognized throughout the nation and the world for groundbreaking advances in:

  • Comparative oncology
  • Infectious disease
  • Regenerative medicine
  • Neuroscience

We chose these thematic areas because they cover the major areas of biomedical science and we have outstanding scientists and clinicians working in each of these fields.  Just a few of our achievements include our  advances in stem cell biology, our strong parasite immunology group, our successes in treating inherited diseases in dogs and cats using gene therapy, our remarkable programs in clinical and basic neuroscience, and our basic and emerging translational work in comparative oncology. In research that impacts humans and non-humans alike, Penn Vet is leading the way toward eminence in veterinary scientific investigation.

Learn more about Penn Vet's research centers, highlighted below.

Center for Animal Health and Productivity (CAHP)

  • The Center for Animal Health and Productivity (CAHP) was established in 1986 to implement teaching, research and service programs directed toward the improvement of health and productivity in food animal herds and flocks. These programs involve an integrated approach employing expertise in disciplines such as clinical nutrition, reproduction, health economics and computer science in addition to conventional specialties in veterinary medicine. The focus of the CAHP is the maintenance of physical and economic health in the whole animal population rather than clinical treatment of individual sick animals.

    Our Mission: To develop, communicate and apply knowledge needed for improvement of the health and productivity of food animal populations.

    The Center for Animal Health and Productivity (CAHP) was established in 1986 to implement teaching, research and service programs directed toward the improvement of health and productivity in food animal herds and flocks. These programs involve an integrated approach employing expertise in disciplines such as clinical nutrition, reproduction, health economics and computer science in addition to conventional specialties in veterinary medicine. The focus of the CAHP is the maintenance of physical and economic health in the whole animal population rather than clinical treatment of individual sick animals.

    Read More About The Center for Animal Health and Productivity (CAHP)

Center for Animal Transgenesis and Germ Cell Research

  • Techniques have been developed to enable the modification of individual genes in animals and plants and thereby precisely alter inherited traits. These genetically altered animals and plants are called transgenic and are of enormous value in medicine and agriculture. An improved understanding of the basic processes governing germ cell and embryo development and of the biology of gametes (sperm and oocytes) and embryonic stem cells will enable us to improve reproductive efficiency, generate animal models of human and animal disease and help provide the knowledge base for regenerative medicine, as well as toward the treatment of infertility.

    Read More About The Center for Animal Transgenesis and Germ Cell Research

Center for Host-Microbial Interactions

  •  Center for Host Microbe InteractionsThe Penn Vet Center for Host-Microbial Interactions (CHMI) formed in 2013 as an interdisciplinary center that helps faculty leverage cutting-edge genomic approaches to understand how microbes (viruses, bacteria and parasites) influence animal health and disease. These so-called ‘host-microbial interactions’ represent an ongoing evolutionary arms-race between mammals and the microbial world we live in. 

    Most people are familiar with well-known viral infections caused by influenza, ebola; or bacterial infections caused by Salmonella or E. coli.  In each case, these pathogens can spread from animals to people, highlighting the notion that humans, animals, and our environment are inextricably connected by infectious diseases — a concept termed ‘One-Health’. 

    In the past few years it has become increasingly clear that just as there are microbes that cause disease, there are also beneficial microbes that are crucial in maintaining health.  Beneficial bacteria colonize our gut, skin and urogenital tract at birth and these complex microbial communities - termed a microbiome - develop just as our organ systems develop.  

    Researchers at Penn Vet, with assistance from CHMI, are actively studying the role of these the microbiome in animal diseases ranging from atopic dermatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, to mental health.

    Our mission is to better understand and treat disease through the study of microbes and the diverse ways animals respond to viruses, bacteria and parasites.

    Our Goals:

    • Establish an internationally recognized center that is the first of its kind at veterinary schools
    • Engage the broader PennVet community in host-microbial research that leverages ‘omic approaches
    • Develop stronger ties across schools at UPenn
    • Leverage spontaneous animal models of disease commonly seen at the Penn Vet Ryan Hospital
    • Establish a convenient ‘in-house’ solution for Penn Vet labs to analyze complex data sets that result from systematic studies of gene expression, microbial whole-genome sequencing, and the composition of microbial communities living on animals.

    Read More About The Center for Host-Microbial Interactions

Center for Interaction of Animals & Society

  • Our society is currently re-examining its entire relationship with animals and the natural world. Until recently, issues such as animal welfare and environmental protection were considered the domain of small idealistic minorities. In the last 20-30 years, they have become matters of widespread public and political concern.

    The Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society (CIAS) is a multi-disciplinary research center within the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. It was re-established in 1997 to provide a forum for addressing the many practical and moral issues arising from the interactions of animals and society. The study of human-animal interactions is still a new and developing field that straddles the boundaries between traditional academic disciplines. For this reason, the CIAS strives for an interdisciplinary approach and the involvement of scholars and researchers from a wide variety of different backgrounds and interests.

    The broad goal of the CIAS is to promote understanding of human-animal interactions and relationships across a wide range of contexts including companion animals, farm animals, laboratory animals, zoo animals, and free-living wild animals. More specifically, the CIAS aims to:

    1. Study the positive and negative influence of people’s relationships with animals on their physical and mental health and well being.
    2. Investigate the impact of these relationships on the behavior and welfare of the animals involved.
    3. Encourage constructive, balanced, and well-informed debate and discussion on the ethics of animal use.
    4. Use the knowledge and information gained from this work to benefit people, and promote the humane use and treatment of animals.
    Read More About The Center for Interaction of Animals & Society

Laminitis Institute

  • Laminitis is a painful inflammation of the lamellar tissue, the strong connecting tissue that attaches or bonds the pedal bone and the inner hoof wall together.

    Laminitis is very serious and can be life threatening due to the chronic and unrelenting pain associated with the loss of support and tearing of the tissue in the hoof. The front hooves are most commonly affected, although the hind feet are sometimes affected.

    The faculty and clinicians at Penn Vet's New Bolton Center are well-known leaders in the field of laminitis and serve as a resource for current information on the state-of-the-art treatment of horses with the disease.

    The composition of this group of experts is the "best of the best" with a wealth of information to answer your questions and advise you on practical ways to help your horse suffering from laminitis.Laminitis Institute, New Bolton Center

    Read More About The Laminitis Institute

Mari Lowe Center for Comparative Oncology Research

  • The Mari Lowe Center for Comparative Oncology Research (MLCCO) was established in 1994 as a result of an endowment from the estate of Miss Elizabeth Lowe. Members of the Mari Lowe Center represent all four departments of the School of Veterinary Medicine. The Center acts as a facilitator and works closely with other centers within the School and across the University of Pennsylvania to develop broad-based clinical oncology and interdisciplinary cancer research and training programs.

    The Center’s mission is to develop a multidisciplinary program in oncology that exploits small animal spontaneous tumor models for use in understanding basic mechanisms of cancers and their treatment.

    This program is envisioned to also develop diagnostic and treatment modalities beneficial to both animal and human patients.

    Components of the program include basic, translational, and clinical research activities, and development of training programs in oncology. Members of MLCCO represent all four departments of the School of Veterinary Medicine. The Mari Lowe Center closely collaborates with the colleagues from the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania and Comparative Oncology Research Group.

    Read More About The Mari Lowe Center for Comparative Oncology Research

Penn Vet Working Dog Center

  • Established in 2007, the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, is part of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine and serves as a national research and development center for detection dogs.

    With the United States national security under constant threat from attacks, detection dogs are still the best tool that we have to detect and mitigate potential threats. Search dogs are also critical for the detection of victims of natural and man-made disasters.

    Our goal is to increase collaborative research, scientific assessment, and shared knowledge and application of the newest scientific findings and veterinary expertise to optimize production of valuable detection dogs. 

    Read More About The Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Veterinary Clinical Investigations Center

  • Welcome to Penn Vet's Veterinary Clinical Investigations Center (VCIC). We are a center  for the advancement and coordination of clinical studies and trials.

    VCIC is located within the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The center's primary focus is the establishment of clinical trials directed at investigating novel treatments or diagnostic tools in a variety of spontaneous disease processes in client-owned pets. 

    Read More About The Veterinary Clinical Investigations Center

Walter Flato Goodman Center for Comparative Medical Genetics

  • Medical genetics is the broad field of science that deals with the role of genes in disease. This involves the identification and characterization of genes that cause disease, as well as the application of genetic knowledge to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of genetic diseases. Genetic diseases include disorders in which a single gene mutation is both necessary and sufficient to cause the disease, as well as complex disorders involving the interactions of multiple genes and other factors.

    Essentially all of the genetic diseases that occur in humans can be expected to occur in other mammals due to the basic homology between the human genome and the genomes of other mammalian species. However, the recognition of genetic disorders in animals depends upon the degree of medical surveillance utilized and the amount of family information that is available. Domestic animals, particularly the dog and cat, are a rich source of potential models because they are examined by veterinarians for individual diseases at a level that is comparable to human medicine.

    The Walter Flato Goodman Center for Comparative Medical Genetics (CCMG) is designed to foster interdisciplinary research and research training in this field through the development of shared resources. The investigators focus their research primarily on naturally-occurring genetic diseases of animals that are true homologs of human genetic diseases.

    Read More About The Walter Flato Goodman Center for Comparative Medical Genetics