Renowned Scientist to Give Gairdner Lecture Oct. 26

October 22, 2012 - News Release

The winner of one of the world’s most esteemed medical prizes and a leader in Canadian vaccine research will speak at the University of Guelph Oct. 26.

Lorne Babiuk, who won the 2012 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award, will give a free public talk on “Vaccines: Potential for Improving Human and Animal Health” at noon in the Pathobiology/Animal Health Building, Room 1800. He will appear as part of the national lecture series of the Canada Gairdner Awards.

The awards are among the most prestigious medical honours in the world and are known as early predictors of Nobel Prize winners. In the past decade, Gairdner recipients have won 19 of the 26 Nobel Prizes in physiology or medicine.

“It’s a privilege to have Lorne Babiuk deliver a lecture on campus,” said Kevin Hall, vice-president (research). “He has devoted his career to protecting the health of people in Canada and around the world. He is the mastermind behind some of Canada’s most innovative vaccination approaches, and is known globally for his work in infectious diseases and their control. Lorne is an excellent example of how basic research can be put into practice to improve people’s daily lives.”

Babiuk is currently in his second term as vice-president (research) at the University of Alberta. He received the $100,000 Gairdner Wightman award for “extraordinary national and international leadership in vaccine development and research on human and veterinary infectious disease control.”

He studies disease transmission from animals to humans and has developed innovative vaccination approaches to control infectious diseases. About 70 per cent of new or re-emerging diseases in the past 30 years have been zoonotic, including SARS, mad cow disease and the E. coli water outbreak in Walkerton, Ont. The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of all human deaths are caused by infectious disease.

A vaccine identified by Babiuk to control diarrhea caused by rotavirus in calves led to a human vaccine. He helped lead development of the Veterinary Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre at the University of Saskatoon, where he worked for 34 years. The centre is now a world-leading facility for vaccine development.

Babiuk has published hundreds of manuscripts, essays and reviews, and holds dozens of patents. He is a fellow of the Infectious Disease Society of America, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the European Academy of Sciences, an Officer of the Order of Canada, and an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

U of G presented him with an honoray degree in 2008.

The Gairdner Foundation was created by financier James Arthur Gairdner to recognize medical researchers. Since 1959, the Gairdner awards have become Canada’s most prestigious honour for discoveries in every field of bioscience.

Each year, the Gairdner national lecture series takes award winners to nearly two dozen universities across the country. Said John Dirks, president and scientific director of the Gairdner Foundation: “The opportunity to learn from the world’s greatest minds is one we hope will inspire students across the country to be imaginers, innovators and, ultimately, cultivators of the future medicine in Canada and around the world.”

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