Sugandha completed her PhD studies in the Department of Pathobiology with Dr. Shayan Sharif in 2023. She is now working in the same department under Dr. Sharif as a postdoc research fellow at Ontario Veterinary College. Her work focuses on influenza virus disease modeling and developing novel therapies to minimize transmission of the virus in poultry flocks.
Sugandha started her research journey studying animal biology, biochemical processes, microbiology, and immunology through veterinary studies. She received a Master of Veterinary Science from the Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in India and gained experience providing vaccination guidance to poultry farmers as a member of the entrepreneurship program on Livestock Meat Product Technology. Her experience with this range of topics led her to pursue a PhD in immunobiology and pathology at the University of Guelph where she has focused on avian influenza viruses (AIV).
According to an estimate by the World Bank, global economic losses associated with a low pathogenic avian influenza virus (LPAIV) pandemic would be close to $3 trillion. This virus possess a potential threat to poultry health and the viability of the poultry industry in Canada, and could be a threat to human health, triggering an urgent need to develop better methods for controlling AIV. Although increased biosecurity measures and disease surveillance have been adopted by many nations, prediction of future outbreaks requires a thorough understanding of AIV transmission. The focus of Sugandha’s current research is to explore whether immune-based strategies will make it possible to control different transmission of H9N2 LPAIV in chickens. These strategies boost the immune system of chickens and prevent the influenza virus from replicating in different sites within the host chickens. The lower replication of virus within the infected chickens would decrease transmission to uninfected chickens. Through these experimental techniques, Sugandha hopes to develop an experimental vaccine to control the transmission of H9N2 AIV in chickens.
Sugandha highlights the importance of being a multifaceted researcher and using research to inspire others. “My research has taught me the importance of collaboration and interdisciplinary teamwork, and I am excited to explore potential opportunities to apply these skills in real-world settings,” says Sugandha. She hopes to continue to see things from a different perspective and help control future pandemics. “My future plans focus on connecting with professionals in the government, and pharmaceutical industries with my current in-depth postdoctoral knowledge of veterinary sciences,” she says. In the future, Sugandha hopes to build a career in academia and gain entrepreneurial experience beyond the lab to help local farmers and businesses.
Sugandha chose the University of Guelph because she was interested in the Department of Pathology and their work on AIV and was impressed with the university’s excellent records in academia and their potential for innovation and guidance. Her time with Arrell Food Institute has allowed her to develop relationships with other scholars across disciplines and to do work with a community partner to develop ads on minimizing food waste for industry leader, Provision Coalition. She truly appreciates her supervisor and the AFI team for their multifaceted and inspiring behaviour and focus on work-life balance.