Reproduction Specialist Joins Penn Veterinary Medicine's Section of Reproduction at New Bolton Center

PHILADELPHIA -– Dirk Vanderwall, part of the research team that produced the world’s first equine clone, has been named chief of the Reproduction Section and director of the Hofmann Research Center for Animal Reproduction at the New Bolton Center of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

Vanderwall will provide leadership in integrating core activities of the department, developing new and promising areas of research and teaching and working with other department chairs.

“Penn Vet is honored to have Dr. Vanderwall head our Large Animal Section of Reproduction,” Gary Althouse, chief of clinical studies at Penn Vet, said. “He brings an extraordinary level of expertise and visionary academic leadership to this position.”

Vanderwall was recognized in 2005 as the world’s top veterinarian specializing in animal reproduction by the American College of Theriogenologists. The honor followed his success in producing three mule clones in 2003 as part of a University of Idaho–Utah State University team. Prior to coming to Penn Vet, Vanderwall conducted research at the UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. During his 10 years there, he produced the world’s first equine clone, the mule Idaho Gem, in 2003.

Vanderwall’s research interests include addressing problems pertinent to sub-fertile older mares and innovative clinical applications and reproductive techniques.

“My primary research priority at Penn Vet will be sub-fertility in older mares from two standpoints,” Vanderwall said. “One area of investigation I would like to pursue is why older mares have overall declining fertility. It will involve a novel procedure for collecting eggs from mares, which is a direct link into studying egg quality in older mares. I will collaborate with researchers at Penn Vet, comparing young mare and older mare egg quality and differences that might be contributing to the higher embryonic loss rate in older mares.

“Parallel with that will be clinical application of the follicle aspiration procedure with sub-fertile-aged mares in which embryo transfer has been unsuccessful. Now we have the ability to collect the unfertilized egg from the aged sub-fertile mare that can’t become pregnant herself and transfer the egg into a young fertile recipient mare that has been inseminated allowing fertilization to occur in the young fertile mare.”

Vanderwall received a bachelor’s degree with distinction from Cornell University. He earned a degree in veterinary medicine in 1986 and a doctoral degree in animal physiology in 1992 from UI, continuing his post-doctoral studies at the University of Kentucky. From 1994 to 1999, he worked for Colorado State University as assistant professor and clinical specialist focused on equine reproduction before joining UI in 1999 as assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Veterinary Science. In 2005 he became an associate professor there.