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2021 Young Scientist Award winners announced

  • Young veterinary researchers Julia Klaus and Dr Yasmin Parr receive award for their outstanding work into feline SARS-CoV-2 infections and feline leukaemia virus, respectively
  • Boehringer Ingelheim has been sponsoring the award since 2008 to help foster talent development in the feline health research community
  • Award represents important collaboration between Boehringer Ingelheim and the Advisory Board on Cat Diseases (ABCD)

Ingelheim, Germany, June 28, 2021 – For their remarkable scientific contributions, doctoral student Julia Klaus, Zurich University VetSuisse Faculty, and Dr Yasmin Parr from the MRC-University of Glasgow, Centre for Virus Research, have received the 2021 ABCD Young Scientist Award. Every year, the ABCD gives out this prize, which Boehringer Ingelheim is sponsoring since its creation in 2008. The aim? To foster young talent development in the feline health research community.

Julia Klaus and Yasmin Parr won over the judges through their research into SARS-CoV-2 infections in cats and the feline leukaemia virus (FeLV), respectively. Dr Karin Moestl, Vice President of the ABCD, presented the 2021 Young Scientist Award to the two winners during the ISFM (International Society of Feline MedicineWorld Feline Congress 2021, held virtually from June 25 to 27, 2021. 

SARS-CoV-2 infection in domestic cats – Julia Klaus

Cats have been shown to be highly susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2, and cases of infected pet cats have been reported worldwide. “As this virus easily crosses species barriers, the risk of anthropogenic (human to animal) and potential zoonotic (animal to human) transmission needs to be investigated,” explains Julia Klaus. She further explored the role of pet cats in the current pandemic and the potential risk of cats becoming a reservoir. Karin Moestl remarks: “This topic is not only important to cat populations but also examines the potential epidemiological role of cats, which is of great importance from a One Health1 perspective.”

Distinguishing FeLV regressively and progressively infected cats – Yasmin Parr

Yasmin Parr’s study of FeLV shows that the outcome of FeLV infection is influenced by the host immune response, with progressively infected cats, so cats whose conditions are worsening, having weaker immune responses. “In our study, we measured the humoral response – so the level of antibodies – in naturally exposed cats,” relays Yasmin Parr. 

To achieve this, she developed a novel ELISA (Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay) to measure a certain antibody type directed towards a specific protein of the virus. Yasmin Parr adds: “We found that cats with regressive FeLV infection, so an infection that’s decreasing in severity, had significantly higher levels of those antibodies.” 
Karin Moestl comments: “This new serological assay provides the foundations for developing an antibody-based diagnostic test that will allow differentiation between regressively and progressively infected cats.” This could allow clinicians to rapidly identify regressively infected cats that are unlikely to develop FeLV-related disease.

ABCD and Boehringer Ingelheim Young Scientist Awards
“Our company is strongly committed to supporting independent research in the field of feline infectious diseases, and the Young Scientist Award represents a wonderful collaboration between Boehringer Ingelheim and the ABCD,” says Dr Jean-Philippe Tronel, Director of the Global Technical Services for Pet Vaccines at Boehringer Ingelheim. “We warmly congratulate this year’s winners.” The Young Scientist Award, created in 2008, is presented annually to young scientists in veterinary or biomedical sciences, who have made an original contribution in the field of feline infectious diseases and/or immunology.

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Last Updated: 28-Jun-2021