Research about vaccinations for R. Equi, which can sicken foals, has been awarded a $5,000 grant. * Photo by Molly Montag.

R. Equi Vaccination Research Awarded $5,000 Grant

A Texas A&M doctoral student’s research into a vaccination to protect foals from Rhodococcus equi (R. equi) infection has been awarded a $5,000 grant.

Dr. Rebecca Legere, DVM, recently received the EQUUS Foundation Research Fellow for her research into aerosolized messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccination to protect foals from R. equi

The $5,000 grant is awarded annually through The Foundation for the Horse to a doctoral or residency student who has made significant progress in the field of equine health care research. In addition to the financial reward, Dr. Legere received complimentary registration for the 66thannual convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP).

R. equi Research

A 2015 graduate of Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Legere developed primary cultures of equine bronchial epithelial cells, transfected these cells in vitro with mRNA, and recently transfected the upper and lower respiratory tract of foals in vivo using aerosolized naked mRNA. Administration of mRNA without a transfection agent greatly reduces the cost and complexity of delivering mRNA to the upper and lower respiratory tract for therapeutic or prophylactic purposes.  

“Generating protective antibodies using the IVT mRNA platform within the lungs could provide a powerful new defense against R. equi infections during foals’ early, critical window of susceptibility,” said Dr. Legere. “This strategy could also be applied toward other respiratory pathogens impacting horses and foals, including those where effective vaccines and therapies are limited. This project represents a critical first step toward our ultimate goal of developing mRNA therapeutics for horses.” 

R. equi can cause severe pneumonia in foals. 

“The health and welfare of America’s horses is core to the mission of the EQUUS Foundation. We are honored to partner with The Foundation for the Horse through the EQUUS Foundation Research Fellowship to support veterinarians who are dedicating their careers to equine research,” said Jenny Belknap Kees, EQUUS Foundation chairman.