IPPE Insights: Merck Poultry Ph.D. Fellowship research focuses on necrotic enteritis

"With the incidence of necrotic enteritis increasing every year, it is crucial to intensely research novel vaccine technologies."
calendar icon 29 May 2018
clock icon 3 minute read

Those are the words of Sohini Bhatia, Ph.D. student at Texas A&M University and winner of the Merck Animal Health Poultry Ph.D. Fellowship Award, which was presented during IPPE at the Merck Animal Health Culinary Tour of Nations Luncheon.

(L-R) Taylor Barbosa, Merck Animal Health, Suresh Pillai, Poultry Science Professor, Texas A&M University, Sohini Bhatia, Ph.D. student, Lisa Bielke, PSA Foundation Board of Trustees, and Travis Boatwright, Merck Animal Health

Bhatia’s research project involves the use of electron beam (ionizing radiation) to inactivate Clostridium perfringens in order to induce a metabolically active yet non-culturable (MAyNC) state, which will create a novel vaccine to control necrotic enteritis in poultry. Her research will be conducted in the Poultry Science Department at Texas A&M University, the National Center for Electron Beam Research, and the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Food and Feed Safety Research Unit in College Station, Texas.

"This is my thesis research for my Ph.D.; it's based on using ionizing radiation in our case electron beam radiation to irradiate the bacterial cells to create a vaccine against necrotic enteritis, which plagues the poultry industry. We create this bacteria and irradiate it, hoping it confers some protection to the broilers," she said. "Vaccines are one of the ways that we can hope to control these diseases."

Created in 2016, the Merck Animal Health Poultry Ph.D. Fellowship Award is awarded each year to a doctoral student pursuing a degree in poultry sciences.

Students interested in innovative applied and basic poultry science research related to intestinal health, immunology, poultry pathology and disease, molecular biology, or vaccine technology and development will be considered for the Merck Animal Health Graduate Fellowship.

"We are pleased to recognize Sohini’s research as part of our commitment to advance the future of poultry science,” said Dr. Taylor Barbosa, Global Poultry Head at Merck Animal Health. “We believe this opportunity will help prepare students for their vital roles within the poultry industry and contribute to advancements in poultry health and performance.”

Bhatia was selected out of a field of 26 applicants by a seven-member task force from the Poultry Science Association Foundation. To-date, there have been two Poultry Ph.D. Fellowship Awards presented at the IPPE Congress in 2016 and 2017, respectively, to Ms. Yi Han at The Ohio State University, and Ms. Maria Arendt at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Sarah Mikesell


Sarah Mikesell grew up on a five-generation family farming operation in Ohio, USA, where her family still farms. She feels extraordinarily lucky to get to do what she loves - write about livestock and crop agriculture. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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