Less than a year old, Texas A&M University's Avian Health Complex is already producing life-saving results for exotic birds.
Officials from the College of Veterinary Medicine gathered at the $3.2 million complex for a grand opening ceremony Thursday and announced that a team of researchers developed a highly effective vaccine to prevent Proventricular Dilatation Disease, which has proven to be especially painful and deadly to captive birds. College Dean Eleanor Green told the audience of more than 100 at the center that it will maintain the vet school's position as a world leader in avian health.
"It reinforces the impact of our research and the impact it has on animals, people and the environment, which we call 'One Health.'"
The Avian Health Complex on Agronomy Road replaced the Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center, which was demolished to make way for the Veterinary and Biomedical Education Complex. Green said the new home of the Exotic Bird Health Center is a reflection of the talent of the 10 to 12 researchers who operate out of the center at a given time.
"We have great people who do great things, and now they have a great place to work," Green said.
The facilities gave professor Ian Tizard and his team of researchers the tools they needed to find a treatment for PDD. Despite the consensus that there might not be a treatment for the disease, they conducted experiments anyway. The team found that the vaccine against Avian Bornavirus prevented the development of PDD in captive birds without any obvious adverse affects.
"They experimented anyway not expecting it to work, and it actually exceeded our expectations," Tizard said. "We repeated it and it's working."
Construction on the Avian Health Complex was completed in February and houses more than 300 exotic birds that consist of macaws, cockatoos and parakeets that arrived at the center through donations or from the wild. The birds are divided into two groups of healthy and ill birds on separate sides of the indoor U-shaped facility and live in climate-controlled rooms. An in-house hospital and labs make it easier for the team of researchers to test for diseases, intelligence and social skills.
Tizard said he was particularly proud of the strong state and local involvement in the construction and development of the center. The Arkitex Studio in Bryan constructed and designed the facility, and Houston resident Mark Myers along with a Florida couple contributed significant funds for the project. The Avian Health Complex named its clinical laboratory after Myers' father, Carroll, who is a longtime cattle rancher and breeder of English budgies in Navasota. Carroll Myers said the new complex is one of the "ultimate" aviaries in the world.
"The vet school and Dr. Green are certainly doing a tremendous job and should be commended for pushing these programs," Carroll Myers said.