For Boehringer Ingelheim, the value in partnering with UGA on the research front isn’t simply that the university boasts exceptional faculty and cutting-edge facilities and resources.
“UGA is attractive to work with because of the diversity of research that goes on,” said Widener. “Traditionally, we interact with UGA on research collaborations and clinical trials in the College of Veterinary Medicine, but we also work with the Center for Vaccines and Immunology and the College of Engineering, and we are hoping to soon start more work with the College of Pharmacy.”
Frane Banovic is an associate professor of veterinary dermatology in UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine and someone who has benefited significantly from the company’s interest in UGA research.
“My lab focuses on inflammatory skin diseases of animals like dogs, cats and horses,” said Banovic. “These are the most prevalent skin diseases that affect about 25-30% of the dog and cat population at any given time, though the prevalence of these disease is increasing.”
That growing prevalence has been a major concern of Banovic’s lab since his arrival at UGA in 2015. According to Banovic, there is a great need for more precise therapeutics in this field, and Boehringer Ingelheim has been seeking to address this need.
The company has sponsored projects through Banovic and his lab that have led to significant advances in the field, and the funding provided for those projects has enhanced not just the work of the lab, but the people in the lab.
“It’s very important to have funding for our graduate student positions,” said Banovic. “Without that support, graduate students may try to pay for their education by working on the side while trying to complete a master’s or Ph.D. program. Funding allows them to truly focus on the research, which benefits the program and advances the field.”
Similarly, what Boehringer Ingelheim gets from these projects goes beyond knowledge. They are able to scout for new talent among the graduate students working on company-sponsored projects, ensuring that anyone brought on board is familiar with its operations and working in an area of interest to the company.
“We are able to get the funding we need, we are able to get the students we need and they are able to get the results and the talented people they need,” said Banovic. “It’s really a unique opportunity for all of us to grow.”