Graduate Students Earn $15,000 Awards for Innovative Solutions to Pet Sterilization

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Cornell University and Scripps Institute Students Honored by Found Animals Foundation

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Michelson Prize & Grants

It’s refreshing to see such innovative ideas and thought-provoking research proposals coming from students. We applaud their efforts and hope they put these proposals into action.

Found Animals Foundation, a Los Angeles-based non-profit dedicated to reducing the euthanasia of pets in shelters, is announcing the winners of the 2012 Michelson Graduate Student Challenge awards. The Michelson Graduate Student Challenge is an extension of the innovative prize philanthropy program the Michelson Prize & Grants and offers students across the United States $15,000 cash awards for the top scientific proposals dedicated to the development of a permanent, non-surgical sterilant for dogs and cats. The Michelson Graduate Student Challenge and the Michelson Prize & Grants are funded by Found Animals’s creator Dr. Gary Michelson, a billionaire inventor of surgical devices and a retired orthopedic surgeon.

The winners of the 2012 Michelson Graduate Student Challenge are:

  •     Joseph Rosenthal of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Rosenthal is the winner in the “Materials Science/Engineering Category.”
  •     Owen Siggs of Scripps Institute in La Jolla, Calif., in the Department of Genetics. Siggs is the winner in the “Depot Formulation Category.”

Rosenthal and Siggs answered the foundation’s call for proposals to develop non-surgical solutions to cat and dog sterilization that could have a game changing effect on shelter intake and euthanasia of cats and dogs. Currently 3-4 million animals are euthanized each year in US shelters, and the majority of these animals are healthy, adoptable pets, put down for no reason other than the lack of a home. The availability of a non-surgical sterilant would address populations of animals not currently served by surgical approaches, and therefore reduce the numbers of animals entering and dying in shelters. Proposals such as these by Rosenthal and Siggs represent an extraordinary opportunity for the realization of this breakthrough product.

“We are excited to present these awards to Joseph and Owen, two extremely bright minds in their respective fields,” said Aimee Gilbreath, Executive Director of Found Animals Foundation. “It’s refreshing to see such innovative ideas and thought-provoking research proposals coming from students. We applaud their efforts and hope they put these proposals into action.”

The Michelson Graduate Student Challenge is the latest initiative of the $75 million Michelson Prize & Grants. Similar in design to the X Prize and other prize philanthropy programs, the $25 million Michelson Prize is offered to spur innovation from experts worldwide to develop a single dose, permanent, non-surgical sterilant for cats and dogs. The first entity to provide this product to the foundation will be offered the $25 million prize, and Michelson Grants of up to $250,000 per year per grant are awarded on an ongoing basis to scientists for research in pursuit of this goal. The two winners of the Michelson Graduate Student Challenge now have the opportunity to apply in collaboration with a faculty advisor for a Michelson Grant to fund the projects, and will be eligible to make a claim for the Michelson Prize in the event that their research generates a product or technology that meets all of the Prize criteria.

The Michelson Graduate Student Challenge awards will be presented at the meeting of the Michelson grantees on April 16, 2012, in Santa Monica, Calif. Rosenthal and Siggs will be accompanied in attendance by the 18 current Michelson grantees and representatives from Found Animals Foundation, including founder Dr. Gary Michelson. This marks the first time that the collective grantees and competitors for the $25 million Michelson Prize will meet together to present strategies for development of a non-surgical method of sterilizing cats and dogs.

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About Found Animals
Found Animals Foundation is a privately funded Los Angeles based non-profit organization dedicated to animal welfare issues and led by business and medical professionals. The Found Animals team works directly within the animal welfare community to improve animal shelter processes, fund pet sterilization research, promote effective animal welfare policy, and provide funding to area shelters and spay/neutering clinics. The organization also sponsors and promotes pet adoption, pet spay and neutering, microchipping programs, and various animal and pet-related events.

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Katy Palfrey
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