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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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Dr. David G. White Named Director of CVM’s Office of Research

by Jon F. Scheid, Editor
FDA Veterinarian Newsletter 2008 Volume XXIII, No V

Dr. David G. White, a microbiologist with extensive experience in various academic and regulatory research settings, was named Director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine’s Office of Research in December 2008.

Immediately prior to this appointment, Dr. White was Director of the Division of Animal and Food Microbiology in the Office of Research and Program Director for the Food and Drug Administration’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System.

The previous OR Director, Dr. Marleen Wekell, has become Director of the Office of Applied Research and Safety Assessment in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Plans for the Office of Research

Dr. White’s goals for the Office include increasing coordination within CVM and FDA, particularly the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, which has its own research laboratory facilities (now run by Dr. Wekell).

The Office of Research, located in Laurel, MD, has several laboratories, as well as 165 acres of pasture land and several large animal facilities. The site also has an extensive aquaculture research facility, headed by Dr. Renate Reimschuessel, a research biologist.

Dr. White said in a recent interview with FDA Veterinarian that the staff and the site at the Office of Research are especially suited for research to establish animal drug residue detection methods and to research the development of antimicrobial drug resistance.

The Office of Research supported the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition during the investigation of Salmonella-contaminated peanuts, Dr. White said. Office researchers helped further identify the Salmonella found in the contaminated food by characterizing antimicrobial susceptibility patterns, which helped FDA determine the source and distribution of the contaminated products.

Dr. White said he would like to expand the Office of Research’s capabilities for responding to emergencies by enhancing its ability to detect contaminants, including those intentionally added as well as accidental. Office of Research staff demonstrated their expertise in this area during the melamine-contaminated pet food crisis, he said. The Office of Research played a key role in developing melamine detection methods.

For the future, Dr. White wants to expand the Office’s capabilities in the area of pharmacogenomics, which in CVM’s case will focus on how genetic variation in animals influences the safety and effectiveness of drug products administered to those animals. Research in this area relating to veterinary medicine is increasing as an offshoot of “personalized” human medicine, he said. Within a few years, animal health companies most likely will be developing veterinary drugs tailored to an animal’s genetic profile, he predicted. As those drugs are developed, the Office of Research’s role will be to develop methods or screens for the detection of novel biomarkers associated with particular animal genetic profiles so that veterinary drug safety and effectiveness can be optimized.

Another area that the Office is gearing up for is genetic engineering, Dr. White said. Office of Research has already been involved to some extent, as Dr. Haile Yancy, a research biologist in the Division of Animal Research, led the development of a Polymerase Chain Reaction method to detect the recombinant DNA in the genetically engineered goats used to produce a biologic product for human use. (See “FDA Approves FIrst GE Animal, Human Health Product” on page 3.)

The product, ATryn, which was approved in February, is an anticoagulant used for the prevention of blood clots in patients who have a rare disease known as hereditary antithrombin (AT) deficiency. ATryn is a therapeutic protein derived from the milk of genetically engineered goats.

CVM assessed the safety of the rDNA construct to the genetically engineered goats. The assessment included a full review of the construct and its stability in the genome of the goats over seven generations. In the review, CVM found no adverse outcomes of the genetic engineering.

While expanding its capabilities, the Office of Research will maintain high standards, Dr. White said. His goals for the Office are to make sure it is known nationally and internationally for its quality of work. He will also try to reach out to other laboratories and scientists for collaboration, to “leverage” research work, he said.

And, he will encourage OR scientists to publish as much of their work as possible so it has the greatest value.

Dr. White’s Background

Along with his post as Office of Research Director, Dr. White currently serves as co-chair of the FDA Antimicrobial Resistance Steering Committee and the U.S. Interagency Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance. He is also the U.S. Delegate to the Codex Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance, which held its second meeting in 2008.

Prior to coming to FDA, Dr. White was an assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary and Microbiological Sciences at North Dakota State University.

He is a past member of the subcommittee of Veterinary Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing, Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute, and the ad hoc group on Antimicrobial Resistance, Office of international des Epizooties. He is a founding member of the Reservoirs of Antibiotic Resistance, which is working to expand scientific understanding of the role commensal bacteria play in spreading antimicrobial resistance.

Dr. White has also served on several extramural and intramural research panels. He is also an editor of the 2005 book, Frontiers in Antibiotic Resistance, published by ASM Press, Washington, D.C.

Dr. White’s career focus has been on the development, dissemination, and persistence of bacterial resistance to antimicrobials used in animal production environments, and on the assessment of the implications of resistance to animal and human medicine.

Dr. White received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont, Masters of Science degree from the University of Kentucky, and Ph.D. from the Pennsylvania State University. Also, he was a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at Tufts University School of Medicine, where he studied the characterization of the multiple antibiotic resistance locus in Escherichia coli.