Baylor College of Medicine News

BCM and Houston Zoo elephant project recognized with award

A $459,147 grant will support a research project focusing on elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV). The research resulted from a collaboration between Baylor College of Medicine and the Houston Zoo and now also includes Johns Hopkins University and the National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park.

The grant is one of 244 awards the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has given out across the nation to recognize and support three valuable roles museums have in their communities.

Dr. Paul Ling, associate professor of virology and microbiology at BCM, and Houston Zoo Associate Veterinarian Dr. Lauren Howard will travel to Washington, D.C., for a workshop and ceremony Sept. 18, to be recognized for the award.

The event will showcase the many ways museums support learning experiences and serve as community anchors and stewards of cultural and scientific heritage through the preservation of their collections.

The award will be used to conduct a research project to deepen the understanding of Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus. Researchers will determine whether any of the currently available anti-herpesvirus drugs have efficacy against EEHV, develop sensitive tests to evaluate specific immune responses to EEHV, and continue attempts to grow the virus in the laboratory. The results of this project will be treatments for elephants with EEHV and a better understanding of elephant immunity, which will inform future vaccine development.

"We are extremely pleased to have been awarded a grant from the IMLS. IMLS grants are extremely competitive to obtain and highly prestigious in the field of wildlife conservation," said Ling. "The award will help facilitate progress towards a better understanding of this terrible disease and for developing better treatments and hopefully a vaccine in the future."