OVC Profs Nominated for Prestigious Innovation Award

June 08, 2012 - News Release

Pathobiology professors Patricia Shewen (professor emerita since 2011) and Bruce Wilkie (professor emeritus since 2006) have been nominated for the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation’s $100,000 award for their development of an effective vaccine against bovine pneumonic pasteurellosis. The disease, also known as “shipping fever” pneumonia, is a major cause of sickness, death and economic losses in the cattle industry.

The Southwestern Ontario Chapter of the Manning Innovation Awards recognized four local nominees this year for their outstanding contribution to Canadian innovation during a reception at the Waterloo Accelerator June 5.

Shewen and Wilkie’s vaccine has proven to be one of the most successful innovations from the University of Guelph’s longstanding relationship with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). Since Presponse® reached the market in the 1980s, all subsequent pasteurella (now Mannheimia haemolytica) vaccines have been modelled on the one developed by Wilkie and Shewen.

“We are thrilled by the nomination, which recognizes our success in providing novel scientific insights as the basis for developing a paradigm-shifting, practical and effective bovine respiratory disease vaccine,” said Wilkie. “It also acknowledges the further effort required to scale up processes for manufacturing the vaccine and to obtain Canadian and U.S. patents as well as regulatory approval for sale. The vaccine has maintained leadership in market share and consistently proven to be efficacious in protection against mortality and morbidity while reducing the need to use antibiotics and enhancing animal welfare.”

Unlike earlier efforts focused on the primary viral infection that weakened cattle and made them prone to developing pneumonia, Shewen and Wilkie targeted the pasteurella bacteria that caused the secondary, and often fatal, infection. They found a commercial partner in Langford Laboratories, a Guelph-based pharmaceutical company started by Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) professors Chas Povey and Mike Wilson. The commercial rights to Presponse® currently belong to Boehringer Ingelheim.

“Our innovation built upon long-standing interest at OVC in bovine lung disease supported by OMAFRA facilities and funding, together with grants, contracts and fellowships we received from the Medical Research Council of Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Agriculture Canada, the National Research Council of Canada, and Langford Laboratories,” Wilkie said.

Wilkie graduated from OVC as the Andrew Smith gold medalist in 1965. He joined the OVC faculty in 1973 following postdoctoral studies on pulmonary allergy in Bern, Switzerland. He served as Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology from 1987-1992 and at the same time was Director of the Animal Biotechnology Centre of Guelph-Waterloo Biotech.

In 1988, Wilkie and Shewen were co-recipients of a bronze award for Presponse® in the Inventions Category, Canada Awards for Business Excellence of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. Wilkie was the inaugural recipient of the International Union of Immunological Societies/ Pfizer Animal Health Distinguished Service Award in 2004 and as professor emeritus he remains an active, grant-funded researcher with the OVC’s Department of Pathobiology.

“It is gratifying to realize that our work has benefitted animal agriculture and improved the health and well-being of animals, which is our primary goal as veterinarians,” Shewen said.

An OVC graduate, Shewen joined the OVC faculty in 1982. She became assistant dean of research in 1995 and served as founding chair of the new Department of Pathobiology from 1997 to 2002. At the 2011 YMCA-YWCA of Guelph’s Women of Distinction Awards, she was recognized for lifetime achievement in the Science, Technology and Research category. Shewen also received the 2011 Distinguished Veterinary Immunologist Award from the American Association of Veterinary Immunologists.

The Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation has awarded more than $4-million to Canadian innovators since 1982.

The Manning Award winners will be announced at the Ottawa Convention Centre Oct. 17.

Pat Shewen
Department of Pathobiology
Ontario Veterinary College

Bruce Wilkie
Department of Pathobiology
Ontario Veterinary College
519-824-4120, Ext. 54760

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1