Lorne Babiuk receives Gairdner award for leadership in vaccine development and research
This story originally appeared in Express News on March 21, 2012
The U of A’s Lorne Babiuk was recently named a recipient of one of the world’s most prestigious awards for research in medical science, the Gairdner Award, for his work in vaccine development.
Babiuk, the U of A’s vice-president of research, received the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award “for his extraordinary national and international leadership in vaccine development and research in human and veterinary infectious disease control,” according to the Gairdner Foundation, which announced the seven 2012 Gairdner Award recipients at a breakfast in Toronto on March 21. This year, Babiuk is the only Canadian recipient of the award, which includes a gift of $100,000. Since the inception of the awards in 1959, 78 recipients have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize in science or medicine.
Babiuk is a leading researcher in infectious diseases, particularly zoonotic diseases — those that pass from animals to humans — and is acclaimed for his work in vaccine development. He developed Canada’s leading vaccine development centre, the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, and has been instrumental in the establishment of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, founded with the help of a $25-million gift from the Li Ka Shing (Canada) Foundation and $52.5 million from the Government of Alberta.
Why is Babiuk’s work in infectious diseases so important? The World Health Organization estimates that approximately one third of all annual human deaths are caused by infectious diseases. These include everything from influenza, E. coli infection and whooping cough to HIV, SARS and hepatitis.
“I’ve always been interested in seeing how research can help society,” says Babiuk. “Vaccines, in my opinion, are one of the most effective ways to improve economic activity and quality of life while reducing rates of sickness and death. I wanted to do something that has relevance to people and society.”
Babiuk is the second U of A researcher to receive a Gairdner Award. The first, Raymond Lemieux, ’43 BSc, ’91 DSc, acclaimed for his work in synthesizing sucrose, was recognized in 1985. The only other U of A alumnus to receive this award was Tak W. Mak, ’72 PhD, in 1989.
– Deb Hammacher