January 31, 2016

Virologist Named Director Of Veterinary School’s Baker Institute

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Dr. Luis M. Schang will be the next Director of both the Baker Institute for Animal Health and the Cornell Feline Health Center in the College of Veterinary Science, effective this August. Schang is currently a virologist at the University of Alberta, whose area of study focuses on the role of various cellular compounds on impeding viral spread.

“[The College of Veterinary Medicine is] a most exciting place to be for any scientist and professor, and even more so for anybody interested in animal and human health,” Schang said. “This is a most unique opportunity, which of course also brings [the] most exciting challenges.”

At the University of Alberta, Schang teaches in both the Department of Biochemistry and the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. Schang said that currently one of the main goals of his research is to find antivirals that would be effective against multiple types of viruses at once — what he calls “broad-spectrum” antivirals.

“There is a large unmet need in animal health for broad-spectrum antivirals,” Schang said. “Each animal species is affected by different viruses.” The current approach of developing a new drug against each virus therefore results in the need of developing numerous drugs, each with a market limited to one species.”

To decrease this inefficiency, Schang and his laboratory focus on testing Rigid Amphipathic Fusion Inhibitors (RAFIs) as a potential broad-spectrum antiviral. According to Schang, RAFIs not only inhibit the spread of animal viruses, but also human viruses like influenza.

“[RAFIs] inhibit the infectivity of viruses that have a ‘coat,’ a lipid envelope. [This group of viruses] includes influenza, animal and human herpes viruses, West Nile, Zika and related flaviviruses, and many others,” Schang said.

Schang received his degree in veterinary medicine from the National University of Buenos Aires and his Ph.D in molecular virology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He said he was drawn to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell because of its commitment to advancing the worlds of both animal and human health through its real world application.

“[The college] has a very strong tradition of making discoveries and finding the application of these discoveries to improve the health and well-being of dogs, horses, cats, and other domestic animals, and to help preserve endangered species,” said Schang. “There are very, very, few research and education environments that can compare [in this respect.]”

Interim Dean Lorin Warnick of the College of Veterinary Medicine expressed that Schang is a good fit for the overall goals of the institution, and that he looks forward to seeing advancements in Schang’s research.

“I am very pleased that Dr. Luis M. Schang will be the next Director of the Baker Institute in the College of Veterinary Medicine. His work is a great fit for the strategic goals of the Baker Institute, and we look forward to his continued success in his research as well as his leadership as director,” said Warnick.