The development of six vaccines, developing a world-class research facility and training more than one hundred graduate students and post-doctoral fellows earns Dr. Lorne Babiuk this prestigious international award. Dr. Lorne Babiuk, a world-renowned virologist, highly acclaimed for his international leadership in vaccine development and research in veterinary infectious disease control, particularly zoonotic diseases, named the 2016 GCHERA World Agriculture Prize Laureate, which recognizes “exceptional and significant” lifetime achievements of a faculty member from a university working in the disciplines relating to the agricultural and life sciences.
r. Lorne Babiuk is a most deserving recipient,” said John Kennelly, President of the Global Confederation of Higher Education Associations for Agriculture and Life Sciences (GCHERA). Each year GCHERA bestows this prestigious award which is sponsored by the Education Development Foundation of Nanjing Agricultural University.
“Dr. Babiuk has been responsible for major advances in our understanding of the biology of infectious diseases and the role of vaccines in their control, he has been a mentor and an inspiration to other scientists, and his vision and leadership resulted in the development of a world-class research and teaching facility at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada whose scientists continue to develop vaccines that make important contributions to animal health on a global basis.”
Babiuk currently serves as the vice-president of research at the University of Alberta in Canada.
Babuik devoted his career to safeguarding the health of animals and people worldwide, primarily through the development of vaccines. He consistently fulfilled the promise he showed very early on in his career as a virologist when he worked on rotavirus, which causes animals to suffer acute diarrhoea. The issue was a major problem for the livestock industry, costing it approximately $300 million annually. Babiuk devised a new technique to grow the virus and then developed a vaccine to control the disease in calves.
It was the first of six vaccines in which Babiuk played a major role in developing over the years.
Like many other accomplished scientists around the world, Babiuk often questioned assumptions and always looked for different and better ways to find solutions to complex infectious disease issues. For example, in the early 80s, at a time when few people thought biotechnology would have any application in the animal health industry, he and his team of researchers developed the world’s first genetically engineered vaccine for shipping fever, a disease that was causing the North American cattle industry $1 billion a year.
A few years later, Babiuk again broke scientific ground when he espoused that understanding the fundamentals of vaccine formulation and delivery rather than antigen production was the key to increasing the efficacy of vaccines. Since then, this theory has become accepted knowledge throughout the scientific community.
Whilst Babiuk is a most fruitful researcher, who has published more than 500 peer-reviewed papers and has more than 22,000 citations, he has always been committed to ensuring that his research results are exploited in practice and where appropriate commercially adopted.
That was evident while he helped build the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan from 1975 onwards and led it from 1993 to 2007, building it into an international research powerhouse that, to date, has produced eight vaccines.
Babiuk’s commitment to mentoring the next generation of researchers is equally impressive as he not only supervised more than 50 PhD students and more than 50 Post-doctoral fellows, he also created a unique-in-North America graduate program in vaccinology with ethical and social concerns arising from the production and use of vaccines in various populations.