2020 Veterinary Research Fellowship

Rebecca Legere
Texas A&M University

2020 Research Fellow

Dr. Rebecca Legere

Rebecca Legere, DVM, MS, DACVIM (LAIM), a doctoral student at Texas A&M University, received the EQUUS Foundation Research Fellow for her research into aerosolized messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccination to protect foals from Rhodococcus equi (R. equi) infection.

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."

Dr. Legere received the $5,000 scholarship for conducting equine research plus a $500 stipend to attend the AAEP Convention virtually.