Baker Institute for Animal Health


Bicknese Family Prize

Joanne Bicknese, '75, DVM '78, established the Bicknese Family Prize in 2005 in honor of her parents Helen and Louis Bicknese, and her aunt and uncle, Grace and Carl Bicknese. The award supports a woman scientist-in-training during a key point in her career development. 

Congratulations to the 2021 Bicknese Family Prize Winner 

Arianna Bartlett, a PhD student in the lab of Dr. Gerlinde Van de Walle is the recipient of this year's Bicknese Family Prize and the Liz Hanson Graduate Fellowship, for her innovative research on mammary cancer in cats. She is using a unique comparative approach to figure out how horses, which rarely develop the disease, bypass the formation of mammary cancer, to find potential therapies for cats.

"It was my greatest pleasure to nominate Arianna for these awards, as she is a very talented female scientist who is committed to achieving the highest level of success in her research, education and outreach," said Van de Walle, an associate professor at the Baker Institute.

Bartlett takes mammary tissue samples from cats and horses, grows their cells in the lab and exposes them to carcinogens to compare how they deal with DNA damage. Specifically, she looks at differences between the two species in microRNA expression in response to carcinogens. microRNAs are small RNA molecules that play a role in cancer by regulating which genes are turned on and off.

"Even though cells from both animals undergo DNA damage, they have different responses," Bartlett said. Damaged cat cells continue living and dividing, but horse cells die off. "We think that feline mammary cells repair their DNA damage and that might make them more prone to harboring mutations that could lead to the development of cancer. Horses escape mammary cancer development because they get rid of those damaged cells." She says the differences in microRNA expression may underlie these distinct responses.

The Bicknese Prize has enabled Bartlett to purchase data analysis software and to attend the 2022 Gordon Research Conference on Mammary Gland Biology in Italy. In 2005, Dr. Joanne Bicknese established the Bicknese Family Prize in honor of her parents, aunt and uncle, to help women at the institute take steps to advance their research careers.

The Liz Hanson Scholarship, awarded by the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, is a one-year grant that supports graduate students studying feline disease or injuries.

Ultimately, Bartlett aims to stay in academia so that she can run her own lab focusing on stem cell and disease research and continue teaching and mentoring students.

Dr. Joanne Bicknese, BS ’75, DVM ’78 Supporting the Institute from All Angles  

Dr. Joanne Bicknese, a longtime Advisory Council member, has taken an active role in supporting the Institute’s research and careers of its most promising trainees. She brings her expertise as a large animal veterinarian and more than three decades working for biomedical companies to the Council, which she chaired from 2000 to 2006.

Bicknese joined the Council in 1998 after meeting then-director Dr. Douglas Antczak. He opened her eyes to the incredible breadth of research occurring at the Institute – from immunology to genetics and parasites – and how it benefits not just pets, but horses, farm animals and people. In 2006, she received the Institute’s Founders’ Award.  Read more...