APHIS’ National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) recently received the 2010 Colorado Governor’s Award for High-Impact Research for its development of the GonaConTM Immunocontraceptive Vaccine (GonaCon). The award was one of four given to Colorado-based labs for their cutting-edge research with global impact. The Colorado state Chief Operating Officer Don Elliman presented the award to NWRC’s Dr. Lowell Miller during a banquet hosted by CO-LABS. CO-LABS is a consortium of research universities, businesses, state and local governments and economic development councils with a mission to educate the public about the value of Colorado’s 24 federal research labs.
GonaCon is the first single-shot, multi-year immunocontraceptive vaccine for use in mammals. It was registered in 2009 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the first wildlife contraceptive for use in female white-tailed deer. Not only might this new tool be useful as part of urban white-tailed deer management plans where traditional options are limited, but it also shows promise in other areas, such as disease prevention.
GonaCon has been successfully tested in other mammal species, including elk, feral horses, bison, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, and feral dogs and cats. In addition to wildlife management research, NWRC and collaborator studies include the development of a combined GonaCon-rabies vaccine for use in feral dogs and raccoons, contraception for companion animals, and the prevention of adrenocortical disease in pet ferrets and spread of brucellosis in bison. The vaccine is being used for research purposes in the United States, Mexico, Europe, New Zealand and Australia. Future NWRC research with GonaCon likely will involve studies to support expanded registration to other species, develop oral delivery systems, and prevent transmission of wildlife diseases.