COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Dr. Michael Criscitiello, assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), was one of six principal investigators at Texas A&M University who was awarded nearly $300,000 ($50,000 for each principal investigator) in research funding through the newly established Texas A&M–CAPES Collaborative Research Grant Program.
Together, this international team of scientists will be studying the genes important in the adaptive immune system of Amazonian manatees. This species of freshwater manatee is threatened, and this initial study will provide information about its immune system’s ability to defend against infectious pathogens, as well as the status of its population diversity-both crucial elements in the efforts to better manage these mammals.Criscitiello is collaborating with Dr. Leonardo Sena and Dr. Maria Paula Schneider of the Federal University of Pará in Belém, Brazil. The Texas A&M research team also includes Dr. Loren Skow from the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences, and veterinary student Ashley Heard-Ganir, who is participating in the Veterinary Medical Scientist Training Program.
“We will also be comparing this species’ immune genes to those of the West Indian manatee and related terrestrial mammals such as elephants and armadillos,” said Crisicitiello. “This will give us a better understanding to how these critical genes have evolved in different species to defend mammals in terrestrial, marine, and freshwater habitats.”
Criscitiello recently earned honors with the 2014 CVM Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award, the 2013 Southeastern Conference Visiting Scholar Travel Award, and the 2011 Montague Center for Teaching Excellence Scholar Award.
“Dr. Criscitiello’s work in immunology and microbiology has resulted in significant discoveries in the disciplines of genomics and evolutionary biology,” said Dr. Linda Logan, head of the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology. “This research award will facilitate the college’s ability to share the expertise of Dr. Criscitiello with international collaborators in Brazil. This advancement of knowledge coincides nicely with the global one health initiative, as it will have a positive impact on animals and the environment.”
The Texas A&M–CAPES Collaborative Research Grant program is open to researchers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The lead Texas A&M principal investigator (PI) must be a tenured or tenure-track faculty and have served as a PI or co-PI on a competitively awarded state, federal, or major foundation grant in the past five years. The lead Brazilian PI must have served as a PI or co-PI on a competitively awarded CAPES research grant in the past five years. The awards are for two years.
“We are so proud of Dr. Criscitiello and all the collaborators on this project,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the CVM. “The opportunity to share knowledge through a global interdisciplinary initiative such as this extends the concept of one health across borders and advances our understanding of the relationship between population health and environmental health.”
The other Texas A&M awardees are:
- Bradford P. Wilcox, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Antonio Celso Dantas Antonino, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco.
- Dr. Mladen Kezunovic, the Eugene E. Webb Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Glauco Nery Taranto of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.
- Courtney Schumacher, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, College of Geosciences and Luiz Augusto Toledo Machado, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais/Centro de Previsao de Tempo e Estudos Climaticos.
- Paul de Figueiredo, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and Renato de Lima Santos, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais.
- Susanne Talcott, Department of Nutrition and Food Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Luciana Azevedo, Universidade Federal de Alfenas.
Criscitiello also serves as a member of the Interdisciplinary Faculty of Genetics, the Interdisciplinary Faculty of Toxicology, the Whole Systems Genomics Initiative, the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Interdisciplinary Program, and the Professional Program in Biotechnology. Most recently, he assumed a joint appointment in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology in the College of Medicine, Texas A&M Health Science Center. Criscitiello also holds memberships in the International Society of Developmental and Comparative Immunologists, the American Association of Immunologists, the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, and the Society of Mucosal Immunology. He has authored or co-authored more than 25 peer-reviewed publications and is engaged in three ongoing, externally-funded research projects (National Science Foundation, USDA Formula Animal Health, Instituto Nacional de Pesca) and has successfully completed projects funded by the USDA Formula Animal Health and two by the National Institutes of Health.