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Karl A. Dawson
Alltech Center for Nutrigenomics and Applied Animal Nutrition
The Role of Biotechnology in Nutrition and Food Security
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
9:00 - 10:00 am

Abstract: By making improvements in the fermentation process, enhancing crop production and upgrading animal production methods; biotechnology is changing the way we look at meeting our nutritional needs, maintaining food safety and securing our food supply. However, molecular and functional genomic tools are also becoming important tools for evaluating nutritional management strategies and promises to revolutionize our view of nutrient requirements and the safety of ingredients entering the food chain. Transcriptomic evaluations of animal tissue using microarrays and real time polymerase chain assays for specific gene makers allow for detailed characterization and comparison of physiological responses to changes in nutrient supply. The ability of these tools to uncover the hidden aspects of specific nutritional changes is allowing for the elucidation of numerous nutrient effects that have never been seen before and gives new ways to evaluate animal and human wellbeing. It is clear that these technologies will open a new era in animal nutrition and toxicology. As gene expression databases expand in the next decade we will see a major revolution in the way we evaluate the values of specific nutrients, establish nutritional strategies and formulate diets. Additionally, molecular tools will soon change the way we evaluate the safety of both human and animal food chains. Not only will these tools provide more sensitive analytical systems for rapidly detecting detrimental contaminants, they will also provide a logical basis for evaluating the potential safety risks from contaminants in food and feed products. Such approaches to food safety could potentially make our current regulatory systems obsolete and transform our schemes for controlling food safety.
Dr. Dawson is the Director of Worldwide Research for Alltech Inc. and directs activities at the company’s Biosciences centers around the world. He oversees the administration and scientific programs in a research department that has more than 50 employees. He also oversees the company’s external contract research and stipend programs for 40 graduate students around the world.

His research has focused on strategies for improving animal performance and health by altering microbial activities in the gastrointestinal tract. Studies in his laboratory have examined microbial population changes and activities in ruminants, horses, pigs, and poultry. Dr. Dawson is a co-director of Alltech Center for Nutrigenomics and Applied Animal Nutrition.

Karl Dawson is an Adjunct Professor of Nutritional Microbiology and served as director of the Nutritional Microbiology laboratory in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Kentucky for 20 years. He has also served as the Research Coordinator for the Department of Animal Sciences and Chair of Agricultural Biotechnology Coordinating Committee at the University of Kentucky. He has a B.S. degree in Bacteriology from Utah State University, an M.S. degree in Microbiology from the University of Wyoming, and a Ph. D. in Bacteriology from Iowa State University. He worked for two years as a microbiologist at the National Animal Disease Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, and was employed by the University of Kentucky for 21 years.

In recent years, Dr. Dawson has developed a research program looking at strategies for improving ethanol production and the use of distillery products in sustainable agricultural systems. He has been one of the key architects of Alltech’s Biorefinery initiative and helped coordinate the recently successful Department of Energy proposal for demonstrating the productions of ethanol from lignocellulosic substrates.