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Insight/Report on Private Giving
Donors Help Reproduce Success at ARBL
If you look at the pedigree of the Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory, you have to be impressed at the list of firsts including: first live foals from frozen-thawed embryos, first twin foals from split embryo, first test tube fertilization to produce a live foal, first foals from sexed semen, first foal from frozen oocytes, and more. What started out in 1941 as the Bull Farm in the middle of Fort Collins is now a University Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence.
What you may not know is the role that private funding has played in the continued growth and development of ARBL, especially its satellite program, the Equine Reproduction Laboratory.
Originally know as the Animal Reproduction Laboratory, ARBL was established to bring together scientists with a common interest in the reproductive physiology of cattle and horses. In addition to an expansive research program, ARBL gained a reputation for its short courses in cattle and horse reproduction. In fact, one donor became involved with ARBL after attending a short course taught by Drs. Bill Pickett and Ed Squires on artificial insemination. That person, Lucy Whittier, made a donation of $1 million in 1998 for reproductive research at Colorado State University and joined ARBL’s newly formed Preservation for Equine Genetics (PEG) program.
“If you look at our overall program, you can clearly see the impact of private giving on research, teaching and outreach,” said Dr. Thomas Hansen, the Director of ARBL and a Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences. “Much private funding has gone toward research activities, as well as renovation of existing buildings and completion of new buildings.”
How ARBL has developed its donor base during the last 20 years tells the tale of the facility itself. Individuals become acquainted with the laboratory through short courses and then become interested in further supporting ARBL (income also is derived from short courses). Individuals have had occasion to use one of the many services offered by ARBL including oocyte and embryo transfer, mare and stallion breeding services, cryopreservation, or other services and want to support the research work at the laboratory. Much reproductive technology – and more than a few companies and products – also has spun off from research conducted at ARBL, providing the program with a source of licensing fees and revenue from business holdings. Of course, Colorado State alums and clients of ARBL donate because of the personal connections they have made with faculty and staff at the laboratory, and their desire to continue to support the laboratory’s work in assisted reproduction.
Gail Holmes is another person doing all that she can for the Equine Reproduction Laboratory. She met with Dr. Squires to learn about the program and decided that not only did she want to contribute to the program, she also wanted to be an ambassador of sorts and set in motion gifts from other individuals, foundations and corporations. Each year, Holmes coordinates a charity auction benefiting equine research. She also serves as a board member at the Orthopaedic Research Center. The Walton Family Foundation Inc., through Alice Walton, also supports ARBL and in 2003 contributed $1.5 million to build a new teaching facility as well as renovate laboratories in existing buildings at the Equine Reproduction Laboratory, which is located on the Foothills Research Campus.
The Equine Reproduction Laboratory faculty developed the technique of obtaining foals from mares that have recently died. Ovaries are sent to CSU, and eggs are harvested and are then either injected with sperm and transferred to recipient mares (ICSI) or are transferred to the fallopian tube for in vivo fertilization (GIFT). Also, researchers are able to collect sperm from the epididymus of stallions that have recently passed away. In these cases, sperm from the stallion is stored frozen until used in artificial insemination or injected into an egg from a donor mare. The fertilized egg is then transferred into the fallopian tube of a recipient mare. One of the first foals born using these technologies was for Cecilia Hylton. She was so excited about the foal that the Hylton Foundation provided more than $500,000 in research support.
“Through the years, the faculty has done such a tremendous job in advancing reproductive science, that individuals who regularly use our services want to support our ongoing efforts in reproductive research,” said Dr. Hansen. “The exciting development is that our work is not only beneficial to horses and cattle, but it also can apply to human reproductive challenges. Many of the students who graduate from our program end up heading human infertility clinics. In addition, what we are learning is being used to control species that are over-populating their habitat, such as elk or deer, as well as potentially preserving genetic material of endangered species. The technology and advancements in this field are just amazing, and we certainly couldn’t participate at the level we are without support from private donors.”
With all that has been done, there is still much more in the planning stage for ARBL. Additional renovation and new construction is planned for the Foothills Research Campus, which will be funded mainly through private donations.