The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association (PHBA) has donated $300,000 to Penn Vet New Bolton Center’s Equine Pharmacology Laboratory to fund revolutionary research to detect gene doping in equine athletes. Gene doping involves the transfer or modification of genes or genetically modified cells of healthy human athletes, as well as equine athletes, for non-therapeutic purpose to enhance athletic performance.
The $300,000 donation from the PHBA will provide funding for Penn Vet’s multi-tiered, multi-year project. Elements of the project include continued research into potential protein and RNA-based biomarkers that have been identified as showing promise for detecting gene doping. The project will also include continued expansion of a BioBank that will be utilized to evaluate baseline levels of these blood-based bio-markers in active and injured race horses, as well as physiological changes in their musculoskeletal structure using New Bolton Center’s robotics controlled imaging system.
“Our members, all of whom are Pennsylvania thoroughbred horse breeders, have consistently stated that maintaining integrity in the sport of racing is one of their top priorities,” said Brian Sanfratello, Executive Secretary of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association. “We are pleased to partner with New Bolton Center, an internationally renowned equine hospital and research institution, to fund this ground-breaking research and help combat gene doping.”
“We are proud of our record at New Bolton Center for remaining on the cutting edge of detecting and preventing the use of performance enhancing and illicit pharmaceuticals in equine athletes,” said Dr. Mary Robinson, Director of the Equine Pharmacology Laboratory at New Bolton Center. “With this grant, we can continue to be a leader in protecting the integrity of horse racing. While gene therapy represents an important breakthrough for patients with disease-causing genes and rare genetic diseases, we need to be sure that we are taking steps to stay ahead of those who would seek to use these advances for illicit means.”
The $300,000 donation represents a significant investment for the PHBA and was championed by PHBA Board President Roger Legg and Board Member/Chair of the PHBA’s Medication Committee Deanna Manfredi. Manfredi’s committee conducted extensive research on the issue and established it as a priority for the organization. Because the money is being allocated from the association’s share of the State Racing Fund, which is typically used for enhanced breeder awards and incentives, the PHBA had to seek approval of Pennsylvania’s State Horse Racing Commission. The Commission approved the PHBA’s request to provide the funding by unanimous vote at its monthly meeting on May 31.
“My fellow commissioners and I applaud the PHBA and the New Bolton Center for funding and undertaking this revolutionary research project to combat efforts to subvert fairness and integrity in the sport of horse racing,” said Russell Jones, a Commissioner of the State Horse Racing Commission in Pennsylvania. “The State Horse Racing Commission is committed to maintaining a fair and level, playing field, both for our fans and the vast majority of owners and trainers who play by the rules.”
In addition to the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center is also seeking additional funding for this research program. Individuals or organizations who would like to support the program through a financial donation are encouraged to contact Margaret Leardi, Director of Development for New Bolton Center, at [email protected]