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If you’re one of the nation’s leading scientists focused on animal health, Kansas is the place to be. Just ask Dr. Jim Riviere.

Riviere, a prominent pharmacology researcher, a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and co-founder and co-director of the USDA Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD) program, can now add McDonald Chair of veterinary medicine, Kansas Bioscience Eminent Scholar, and a university distinguished professor at Kansas State University to his long list of accolades.

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For Kansas State, successfully recruiting such an outstanding scientist is quite an achievement. For Riviere, leaving the East Coast for the Midwest was a no-brainer.

“Kansas State, and actually the whole state of Kansas, has made animal health a priority,” Riviere said. “Another thing that’s exciting about Kansas is the Animal Health Corridor. This is just an incredibly rich scientific environment that has the support of the state’s universities, the Kansas Bioscience Authority, and state government. It’s one of the factors that attracted NBAF (National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility) to Manhattan. The commitment of Kansas to developing the whole biomedicine and translational medicine environment is real.” Riviere said he began to appreciate this when he joined the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute (KCALSI) Science Advisory Committee in 2006.

Much of Riviere’s research focuses on chemical, drug and food safety. Using mathematical models, he develops programs to help veterinarians and those in animal production ensure that drugs used to treat animals are no longer present when the animals are slaughtered for food.

“When people eat a hamburger or fried chicken, they don’t expect the meat to be tainted by drugs or chemicals,” he said. “We help ensure that nothing shows up in the food products from animals, be it meat, milk or eggs.”

That same goal was behind the founding of FARAD in 1982. A university-based national program that is overseen and operated by veterinary school faculty and staff at North Carolina State (where Riviere formerly taught), the University of California-Davis and the University of Florida, FARAD provides a hotline and internet resource for “scientifically-based recommendations regarding safe withdrawal intervals of drugs and chemicals in food-producing animals.” 

“Those three states are not major beef producing states, so it works out really well to get a component of FARAD in Kansas, particularly with the expertise at Kansas State University,” Riviere said. K-State recently began taking FARAD hotline calls and now shares that responsibility with NC State and UC-Davis.

FARAD employs cutting edge research in drug therapy and applies it to the callers’ problems, a system that Riviere says is an aspect of translational medicine, which he believes is as important for animal health as for human health. 

“It’s putting the veterinarian or farmer in the field in touch with the researchers developing solutions to their problems,” he said. “As you transition from basic research to a patient, some therapies need to be tweaked and adjusted, and the only way to really do this is to have people who are at both ends working together to get early access to the patients as therapeutic approaches are developed. It’s absolutely essential. Otherwise, you come up with some brilliant science that doesn’t really fit all that well for the specific diseases and conditions being treated.”

Riviere believes that the existing crossover between small animal medicine and human medicine is an exciting concept to apply to food animal research. Just as researchers take therapies that work in dogs and apply them to humans, some medical techniques that are routinely used in humans could be applied to food animals and significantly improve food safety.

“The most exciting aspect is that our work has a direct impact on human health because it eliminates the potential for chemical exposure in foods,” he said. “I get to do some neat science and know it has an immediate impact. That’s rewarding.”

from the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, Inc.
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