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After half a century as the Winn Feline Foundation, the organization has announced a new name: EveryCat Health Foundation. According to Drew Weigner, president of EveryCat, DVM, the new name better reflects the foundation’s commitment to improving the health of all cats.
“For over 50 years, we’ve been promoting cat health through research and training for all cats, including pedigree cats, homeless cats and animal shelter cats,” says Weigner.
In fact, every cat you see in the clinic and almost everything you do for that cat has been funded by Winn Feline, “added Susan Little, DVM, DABVP (Feline Practice), former president and retired board member of the organization.
Founded in 1968 by the late Robert H. Winn at a board meeting of the Cat Fanciers’ Association in Chicago, the charitable foundation has since funded nearly $ 8 million in grants. It is the only organization dedicated solely to funding cat health studies around the world.
“Back then, our grants were low,” recalls Joan Miller, who served as Winn’s chairman from 1980-1996. However, she felt it was imperative to set up a veterinary advisory group to assist the Board members in reviewing grant proposals. Since then, Winn has attracted some of the most famous and well-known veterinarians to volunteer for the selection of scholarships to fund.
Winn and the fight against feline virus diseases
Miller recalls when the feline leukemia virus devastated cats around the world in the early 1980s. “At the time, the disease didn’t even have a name,” she says. “We called it cat lymph node disease. We knew next to nothing. “Winn funded Niels Pedersen, DVM, PhD, now Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis, who made it possible to understand the retrovirus so that the disease could be combated, and eventually a vaccine was developed.
In 2005, the Bria Fund was created specifically for FIP and has funded more than $ 500,000 in research. “I’ve been a veterinarian for 30 years and there’s nothing worse than telling a customer that their kitten has FIP (feline infectious peritonitis),” said Dean Vicksman, DVM, CVJ, EveryCat board secretary. “The FIP breakthroughs are incredibly exciting.”
From the beginning, Winn has funded Pedersen and others around the world to first gain a better understanding of FIP. In November 2019, the Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, with Pedersen at the helm of Winn and the University of California, hosted the Purrsuing FIP and Winning Symposium. Over a dozen researchers from around the world, once sponsored by Winn for FIP studies, spoke at this landmark event, possibly the largest of its kind to ever look at a feline disease.
It was Pedersen’s work and Winn’s funding that led to the development of a drug nearly identical to remdesivir (Veklury, Gilead Sciences) that will help treat FIP in cats. When the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic emerged in 2019, previous work in veterinary medicine resulted in an attempt to use remdesivir to treat people with SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. In fact, Remdesivir was the first drug to receive conditional approval from the FDA for the treatment of COVID-19.
“I knew Winn had an impact,” says Vicksman, “but I’m surprised how much there really is.” The depth of the research that we have funded and continue to fund is amazing. “
Weigner, who has been on the Winn Board since 2014, reports a promising collaboration, a partnership with Purina and Mars to investigate the role of phosphorus in the development of chronic kidney disease. “This collaboration is the first time that these two pet food titans have joined forces. They draw on EveryCat’s call for proposals and then channel money to solve the mystery of the most common geriatric disease in cats and potentially saving millions of lives, ”says Weigner.
“I couldn’t be more excited about advancing our mission by developing EveryCat,” said Jackie Ott Jaakola, executive director of the foundation. “There is no more time than now – when the world realizes the importance of our animal companions in our lives – for communities to join us and work together to improve the lives of cats and those they love.”
Steve Dale, CABC, writes for veterinarians and pet owners, hosts two national radio programs, and has appeared on television shows from Good Morning America to Oprah. He is a member of the dvm360® Editorial Advisory Board as well as the boards of the Human-Animal Bond Association and the EveryCat Health Foundation. He performs at conferences around the world. Visit stevedale.tv.