Science Market Update

$25M Crowdsourcing Challenge + $50M in Research Grants for Pet Pill

Posted by Jaimee Saliba on Tue, Jan 15, 2013

pet research challengeDr. Gary Michelson is a retired Los Angeles surgeon who made a lot of money ($1.35B) from a spinal surgical invention in 2005. Since then he's devoted himself and his considerable resources to philanthropy. One of his most passionate causes is reducing the rate of euthanasia for unwanted pets by promoting spaying and neutering, along with shelter adoption, training, and good vet care through the Los Angeles group Found Animals. Not content with the usual invasive practice of sterilizing pets, he also created the Michelson Prize and Grants to challenge research scientists to come up with a cheap, safe, and effective one-dose pill for cats and dogs to induce permanent infertility. The winner of the Michelson Prize in Reproductive Biology will take home $25M and the satisfaction of knowing that fewer pets will be put down because of overpopulation.

[Image courtesy of Found Animals and the Michelson Prize and Grants]

Coming up with a laboratory solution to this veterinary research challenge is so important that Michelson and Found Animals are also offering to support scientists of reproductive biology with research grants in their attempt to win the prize. $50M has been set aside, in addition to the prize money, to fund projects that promise to advance knowledge leading to the challenge goal. The Michelson Grants are awarded for up to 4 years. To date, 17 investigators have received a Michelson Grant (one twice), with an average total award amount of $517K per project.

Some of the researchers receiving grants to come up with a non-surgical pet sterilant include:

  • Philippa “Pippa” Marrack, PhD, Immunologist at National Jewish Health, Denver, CO, and her lab postdoc, Michael Munks, PhD$732,900, Use of Attenuated Recombinant Herpesviruses, Expressing Fertility Antigens, To Induce Infertility in Cats and Dogs

  • Ralph G. Meyer, PhD, Animal biologist at the Univ of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, $577,380Targeting Poly(ADP-ribose) Metabolism for Development of a Nonsurgical Sterilant

  • Benjamin Renquist, PhD, Animal scientist at the University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, $407,352Increasing the Circulating Half-life of GnRH-RIP Conjugates to Improve In vivo Efficacy
  • R. Scott Struthers, PhD, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Crinetics Pharmaceuticals, San Diego, CA, two grants: $540,207 and $860,911Novel Toxin Conjugates for Nonsurgical Sterilization Via Gonadotroph Ablation, Targeted Ablation of GnRH Neurons for Nonsurgical Sterilization


crowdsourcing research challenge

[Dr. Michelson with his dogs, photo by Ricardo Dearatanha, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times]

Dr. Michelson is a longtime advocate for the humane treatment of animals. As a medical student he protested the routine (mandatory) surgical training that required removing organs from live dogs until their bodies gave out. In the Los Angeles Times article recently, he recalls telling the dean: "I don't understand that I need to mutilate a dog to learn how to be a competent surgeon for human beings," and refused to do the operations. You may be assured that investigators applying for the Michelson Grant and/or the Michelson Prize are required to adhere to strict guidelines for the treatment of any lab animals used in their research. Dogs, cats, and rabbits are to be put up for adoption when the research is complete.

There's a happy irony to this story of a famously successful surgeon going to great lengths to see that pet owners don't have to subject their pets to a surgical procedure in order to prevent pregnancy. Non-invasive therapies are not only safer for the patient, but they are far more accessible and affordable, meaning they are more likely to be widely-utilized. It's Michelson's dream and the goal of this crowdsourcing challenge to put an end to the need for routine euthanization of dogs and cats because of overcrowded shelters. Anyone can enter the contest, regardless of whether they are a grant recipient.


Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. is a full-service event marketing and planning company producing on-campus life science research tradeshows nationwide for going on 21 years. We plan and promote each event to bring the best products and services to the best research campuses across the country. Life science researchers, purchasing agents, and lab managers are actively invited to attend to see the latest products and equipment and discuss their laboratory tool and service needs. We host shows at all of the university cities listed above among the grantees, plus three shows in the Los Angeles area:




See our complete Nationwide Show Schedule for 2013.

Tags: 2014, CA, 2013, University of Arizona, Northeast, University of Pennsylvania, UPenn, University of Southern California, vet care, veterinary research challenge, Northwest, crowdsourcing, Southwest, USC, Los Angeles, National Jewish Health, animal science, AZ, LAVS, Philadelphia, UAZ, BioResearch Product Faire Event, Denver, Front Line event, PA, CO, Biotechnology Vendor Showcase, Tucson, Irvine, UCI, UC Irvine, Dr. Gary Michelso, pets, spaying and neutering, NJH, UC Los Angeles

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