Morris Animal Foundation has selected Kathryn M. Meurs, DVM, PhD, from North Carolina State University, as the first recipient of the Mark L. Morris Jr. Investigator Award. The award focuses on canine mitral valve disease, the most common cause of heart disease in the dog. Meurs is a leader in the field of genetics of cardiac disease in companion animals, with a proven track record of successfully identifying the genetic basis for numerous canine and feline cardiac diseases.
“Mitral valve degeneration is known to be an inherited disease, particularly in certain breeds, although the causative mutations have not been identified,” said Barbara Wolfe, DVM, PhD, chief scientific officer at Morris Animal Foundation. “Because we don’t fully understand the etiology of the disease, veterinarians primarily treat dogs to alleviate the symptoms. Through this award, we hope to help identify the causes of mitral valve degeneration, so that we can better treat and prevent canine heart disease.”
With support from the investigator award, Meurs’ research team hopes to identify genetic variants that lead to the development of mitral valve degeneration, and use that information to innovate treatment and prevention plans for dogs with high-risk DNA variants.
“I firmly believe that once you really understand a disease etiology, you can most effectively develop treatments for the primary disease, and gradually remove or at least reduce the disease prevalence in the population,” said Meurs, who is associate dean for research and graduate programs at NCSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Meurs received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, completed a small animal rotating internship at North Carolina State, and a cardiology residency at Texas A&M University where she also completed her PhD work in clinical genetics. Her work has led to the identification of genetic mutations for heart disease in companion animals; and development of clinical management recommendations, including for feline cardiomyopathy in Maine coon and ragdoll cats, boxer dog cardiomyopathy and, most recently, long QT syndrome in English springer spaniels.
“At North Carolina State, we are incredibly proud and grateful for our relationship with Morris Animal Foundation, and for all that the Morris family has done to support research for animal health,” said Meurs. “We are thrilled to have this award coming to NCSU.”
A veterinary scientist, Mark L. Morris Jr., DVM, PhD, was renowned for his pioneering work in small and exotic animal nutrition, and his tireless dedication to Morris Animal Foundation’s mission to advance animal health through excellent science. The Mark L. Morris Jr. Investigator Award, newly established in 2015, honors his legacy and vision.
“I think that Mark would be both pleased and honored that Dr. Meurs will be the first recipient of this award,” said Dr. Bette Morris, Morris Animal Foundation board trustee, and wife of the late Dr. Morris Jr. “Mark would recognize the importance of understanding the etiology of heart disease as a first step toward preventing the occurrence of the disease and improving treatment.”