About the Translational Medicine Core

The primary goals of the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Precision One Health (POH) initiative are: 

To provide individual animal and human patients with the right medical approach at the right time using advanced evidence-based –omics and 3-dimensional in vitro organoid methods, thereby providing optimal therapeutic and preventive care for both humans and animals.

The POH rests upon three foundational Pillars: 

  • Pillar 1:  Pathogenesis and Diagnostics
  • Pillar 2:  Therapeutic Intervention
  • Pillar 3:  Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

The focus of the Translational Medicine Core relates to all three POH Pillars.

The POH initiative has interactive and overlapping scientific 4 cores.

  • Translational Medicine
  • Systems Modeling and Data Analytics
  • Epidemiology and Disease Ecology
  • Social Sciences and Medicine

The mission of the Translational Medicine Core (TMC) is to develop and deploy established and emerging validated methods for advancing the health and well-being of animals and humans in Georgia and beyond.

The TMC will achieve its mission by building strong research collaborations and implementing new collaborations within our core, across the other Precision One Health Cores, and across and beyond the University of Georgia.

The objectives of TMC are to conduct and disseminate research that advances the primary goals of Precision One Health. This includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Identifying in vitro and in vivo animal models and best practices for deploying advances in precision medicine for both animals and humans.
  2. Enhancing collaborations and funding for clinical research at UGA’s VTH through applications for NIH training grants (K- awards, F- awards), establishing institutionally funded programs for DVM/PhD and residency/PhD, as well as enhancing faculty recruitment and retention for clinician-scientists at the UGA Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Proposed Translational Medicine Core Architecture

Regular Operations

Monthly Operations Meetings: Translational Core Faculty 

1-hour monthly virtual meeting (day/time TBD)

Progress Update – victories and stuck points

  • Ongoing projects
  • Manuscript/presentation/etc.
  • Grants

Future plans

Monthly Working Meetings (in smaller pre-defined groups) 

  • Grant writing
  • Manuscript/Presentation
  • Pertinent updates from the field

Annual Seminar for faculty, graduate students, advanced undergraduate students 

  • TBD Spring or Fall semester
  • 2-hour (longer) seminar with 20-minute talks from TMC Core and Affiliate faculty on current research, key advances in their respective fields.
  • To foster collaboration, the TMC pledges intentionality inviting speakers who are Core or Affiliate Faculty of other POH Cores

Interacting and collaborating with other POH Cores at UGA:

The Translational Medicine Core will intentionally look to core and affiliate faculty in other POH cores as collaborators (e.g., co-investigators) for grant development and seminar presentations. To stay informed of the work being done in other Core, during each quarter, we will invite a faculty member (core leader or other) from another Core to our monthly Operations meeting. They will provide an overview of the work being done in that Core (e.g., grants being conducted, developed, educational opportunities, etc.). There are other ways to achieve the intent of this plan, which is for all cores to be regularly updated on their activities, in the interest of the overarching goal of fostering fruitful collaborations while preventing the development of academic silos.

Networking outside of the Translational Medicine Core:

  • Invite Translational Medicine Core Affiliate faculty to attend Monthly Operations and Working Meetings as appropriate for the topic being covered.
  • Seek opportunities for research collaborations across institutions to advance the research mission and aims. This includes, but is not limited to, the University System of Georgia. International collaborations are encouraged.
  • Look for opportunities for training collaborations across POH Cores, UGA more broadly, and other institutions as appropriate, with a specific focus on training veterinary clinician-scientists.
  • Ensure that the Translational Medicine Core is well-positioned for collaborations with the upcoming UGA Medical School.

Action points for the next 12-18 months:

Immediate action points: 

  • Engage clinicians at the UGA VTH for collaboration and sample acquisition/bioarchiving.
  • Conduct a questionnaire to all VTH faculty to identify bottlenecks for research productivity (completed).
  • Based on the questionnaire data, identify the most pressing needs for clinicians to engage with the POH Initiative and clinical research/sample acquisition in general (completed) – research technician for VTH faculty.
  • Implement a search for a research technician for the VTH.

Future action points over the next 18 months: 

Identify opportunities for connecting collaborators between VTH and POH/Emory/Augusta through CTSA (completed).

Identify “low-hanging fruit” grant opportunities to foster clinician-scientist training, education, and support:

  • DVM/PhD studentships – overarching F30 grant application.
  • K-award applications for DVM clinician-scientists.
  • Residency/PhD program grant opportunities.
  • KL2 scholars/TL2 scholarships through CTSA.
  • Identify opportunities for interactions between future UGA Med School MD/PhDs and DVM/PhD candidates.
  • COHA grants for residents.
  • ARCS scholarships for PhD students.

Core Faculty

Karin Allenspach, DVM, DECVIM-CA, PhD (Core Lead), is a board-certified veterinary small animal internist with a PhD in Immunology and extensive experience in research, teaching/mentoring, and clinical service in medicine and oncology. Her research has primarily been in the areas of small animal gastroenterology, as well as the development of adult stem-cell-derived organoid technologies from canine samples. Dr. Allenspach joined UGA on August 1, 2023, as Professor in the Department of Pathology at the College of Veterinary Medicine and is a Co-PI of the SMART Translational Medicine Lab at UGA, which focuses on the development and culture of adult stem cell-derived organoids from various species. Her latest efforts have resulted in the founding of a start-up company (3D Health Solutions, Inc.) with the goal of commercializing assays for drug screening based on organoid methods.

Jonathan P. Mochel, DVM, DECVPT, PhD (POH Director) obtained his Veterinary Medical Degree from the National Veterinary School of Alfort (Paris, France). He completed his Doctorate studying Neurosciences in collaboration with the College de France and received the Silver Medal from Paris XII for his work. Dr. Mochel holds a MS in Pharmacology and Pharmacokinetics and is a Diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology (ECVPT). He completed his Ph.D at Leiden University (Netherlands), with a focus on the mathematical modeling of the cardiovascular system for optimization of ACE inhibitors dosing schedules in patients with congestive heart failure. He is a founder of the Animal Health Modeling & Simulation Society which aims at promoting the dissemination of mathematical modeling in Veterinary Sciences.  Dr. Mochel is a Professor of Systems Pharmacology in the Department of Pathology at the University of Georgia (UGA) and the Inaugural Director of the UGA Precision One Health Initiative. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and an ad hoc Study Section Reviewer for the US National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the UK Medical Research Council and the CNRS/INSERM ATIP-Avenir Program. He is currently the President of the European Association of Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology and the recipient of the 2022 Research Award from the American Academy of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. Dr. Mochel’s research pertains to the analysis of (pre)clinical data obtained from spontaneous animal models of human diseases to bridge the knowledge gap between experimental models and patients. He has authored more than 130 peer-reviewed publications in select biomedical journals and has attracted more than $16M research grants as lead PI or Co-Investigator. Jon is the co-founder of LifEngine Animal Health, a Y Combinator company developing gene editing solutions for canine oncology, and 3D Health Solutions, a platform for efficient drug screening in pharmaceutical research.

Leigh Ann Clarke, PhD, (Core Member) has conducted genetics research on dogs for 22 years. She earned her doctoral degree from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University, studying exocrine pancreatic insufficiency under Dr. Keith Murphy, a canine geneticist, and Dr. Joerg Steiner, Director of the Gastrointestinal Laboratory. This unique collaborative effort taught her not only how to apply molecular genetics techniques to the study of hereditary diseases, but also the importance of accurate clinical phenotyping and in-depth knowledge of both the phenotype and breed. Dr. Clarke has identified causal genetic variants underlying 11 diverse hereditable diseases in dogs, 5 of which were genetically complex (non-Mendelian).

Taotao Wu, PhD, (Core Member) is an Assistant Professor of Chemical, Materials, and Biomedical Engineering, with a courtesy position at the Institute of Bioinformatics. His research focuses on understanding the networked brain through traumatic injury. Previously, he served as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Bioengineering Department at the University of Pennsylvania. During his postdoctoral research, he developed a unique approach that amalgamates principles in injury biomechanics, finite element analysis, network neuroscience, and neuroimage analysis to bridge the gap between the mechanical response and brain functional response during TBI. He earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from the University of Virginia Center for Applied Biomechanics. His doctoral research integrated human and animal data to study the biomechanical tolerance of brain injury. Notably, this work was adopted by the international standardization organization (ISO) for the assessment of vehicle safety.

Yang Li, PhD (Core Member) is a highly motivated and seasoned biomedical engineer, specializing in cell separation and molecular analysis. During his doctoral research at the University of Georgia, his primary focus was on developing innovative microfluidic devices with the aim of enriching rare tumor cells from the blood of cancer patients, using biocompatible ferrofluid. This pioneering work resulted in the creation of a series of microfluidic devices known for their exceptional recovery rate, purity, and throughput. At the same time, he also explored high-resolution cell categorization based on physical diameter, utilizing ferrofluid to precisely separate cells with minute differences in size. This inventive technique expanded the capabilities of ferrofluid, making it possible to enrich exosomes with nano-scale resolution. Additionally, he introduced a groundbreaking biochemical and functional phenotyping assay for cells, providing a novel method to biochemically and functionally phenotype cells based on their migration behavior. This approach notably enabled the enrichment of migratory patient-derived circulating tumor cells (CTCs) with unparalleled purity. Continuing his research at UC Berkeley as a postdoctoral researcher, he focused on integrating microfluidic droplet techniques with single-cell immunoblotting to analyze the expression of proteoforms in fixed or FFPE (Formalin-Fixed Paraffin-Embedded) samples. This work served as the precursor to his future program, which revolves around developing multimodal techniques for single-cell profiling based on phenotypes, proteome, and transcriptome. He is dedicated to achieving both high throughput and resolution in these analyses, utilizing his expertise in cell profiling and molecular analysis to uncover intricate correlations between cellular phenotypes (physical, biochemical, functional) and molecular expression (proteoforms, metabolites, and mRNA).

Affiliate Faculty

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