EGSF Five Year Research Plan

2021 – 2025

Background

The aim of the Equine Grass Sickness Fund (EGSF) is to discover the cause and a means of prevention of equine grass sickness, and to improve the treatment of chronic cases.

In the 100 years since the disease was first discovered, many potential causes have been examined and disproved. Others remain key suspects, in what seems almost certainly a multifactorial disease. Proof of the cause, or causes, remains frustratingly elusive and seemingly impossible to pin down.

To help make a breakthrough in the research, EGSF is embarking on an ambitious five year research plan, working together with scientists from different disciplines to look at the disease in new ways and from fresh angles.

The research will be focused on achieving our stated aims: cause, prevention, treatment.

Research

There are still questions to be answered about specific causal agents, and these will remain a focus of research, including mycotoxins and Clostridium botulinum.

We will also undertake an open minded review of what has been done to date, and establish the known facts, in order to identify promising new angles for investigation. EGS seems likely to be multi factorial, so a cross-disciplinary approach may produce dividends.

We will create a biobank of relevant EGS samples and case database to assist EGS scientists in their research. This will become a legacy of the five year plan. All researchers investigating EGS will be encouraged to use, and contribute to the biobank, making sure it is a dynamic resource.

We will initiate novel ways of looking at the disease, in particular to develop a means of in-vitro testing of causal agents.

To achieve the above research aims EGSF have approved funding for the following projects to begin in 2021, and expect further projects to be launched as these progress:

  • An EGS Research Fellow, based in Moredun’s innovative Fellowship Programme
  • A research sabbatical at the Royal (Dick) Vet to focus specifically on mycotoxins
  • A PhD student at Moredun to develop organoid cultures for in vitro testing

Knowledge Exchange

It is vital to feed research progress back to equine stakeholders, particularly vets and horse owners. This should be a two-way process to enable research to benefit from the considerable knowledge and experience in the field.

Science communication should also be between researchers, sharing knowledge and samples. The biggest scientific leaps come from collaboration, and it is a prerequisite of receiving EGSF funding that knowledge is shared. All research funded by EGSF should be open access.

  • To improve our knowledge exchange we are introducing regular e-news updates, videos and podcasts, in addition to the information base on our website and existing printed newsletters.
  • We are recruiting volunteer Horse Ambassadors and Vet Ambassadors to help create and inform the biobank and engage in citizens’ science.
  • We are working with other national equine charities to engage their expertise, in particular BHS and World Horse Welfare

Fundraising

For the first time grass sickness research has a critical mass of scientists totally focused on cracking this difficult disease, and it is vital that we are in a position to fund further research based on their findings. The amount of research we can do depends entirely on generating sufficient funding. Thanks to the efforts of our supporters over the years we are able to give the starting light to these crucial research projects, but a concerted effort is required by all those connected with grass sickness to keep up the momentum.

EGSF will be asking all our supporters to consider ways in which they can help play their part. This may be by making a donation, organising a fundraiser, buying our merchandise, participating in raffles and auctions, leaving a legacy, volunteering at an EGS event.

EGSF will be applying for charitable and scientific grants for specific research projects.

You can help play your part today!

Please DONATE here: https://grasssickness.org.uk/donate/

For more information please contact:

Kate Thomson, Administrator, The Moredun Foundation Equine Grass Sickness Fund

Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Penicuik EH26 0PZ kate.thomson@moredun.org

www.grasssicknesss.org.uk Scottish Charity No: SC022515