Computer Science and Engineering Teams Up with Animal Science to Improve Animal Health and Growth

C. Titus Brown,assistant professor of computer science and engineering, and microbiology and molecular genetics, is one of three MSU researchers to receive grants totaling nearly $1.5 million to improve animal health and growth. The grants, awarded by the United States Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), are part of a $24 million funding project.

Brown received $689,921 in support of his research efforts. He and his team will develop software that can analyze gene sequencing technology to address disease in agricultural animals.

"Recent advances in sequencing technology are yielding immense amounts of sequence data that can be used to address questions of animal disease and variation," says Brown, who is also the director of the Laboratory of Genomics, Evolution and Development at MSU. "However, agricultural researchers do not yet possess the computational tools to make use of this data."

With this funding, Brown and his team will be able to build the tools necessary for researchers to take full advantage of this flood of sequencing data.

"Our proposed software will quickly open up many new avenues for agricultural genomics. We will accelerate agricultural science by building tools tailored to specific agricultural goals and the types of genomic analysis needed by the agricultural community," said Brown. "For example, we are working with researchers at the USDA Animal Disease and Oncology Lab to understand why particular strains of chickens are resistant to Marek's disease, a highly contagious viral disease, in order to develop better approaches for controlling it."

MSU animal science professors George Smith and Juan Steibel also received funding.

"With the support from these federal funds, I am certain that these collaborative efforts - animal science researchers working alongside our computer science and engineering team - will yield innovative technological advances that will greatly benefit the agricultural industry," said Satish Udpa, dean of the College of Engineering.

"Earning these highly competitive grants gives MSU faculty an opportunity to do the far-reaching research that looks around the curve at what's coming, what might be a problem five or 10 years from now," said College of Agriculture and Natural Resources dean Jeff Armstrong. "Federal support for fundamental research in farm animals is critical to development of new technologies to increase efficiency and sustainability of the dairy and other livestock industries in Michigan and beyond."

MSU is among more than 30 universities to receive a share of the funding.

C. Titus Brown

(Date Posted: 2010-03-30)