Though he plans to retire in June, Babiuk, who has been at the University of Alberta since 2007, is hard at work on his seventh vaccine — a five-in-one vaccine to stop pox viruses in sheep, goats, and cattle.
“In the developing world, it’s very difficult to maintain a cold chain and keep vaccines refrigerated,” he said. “So what we have done is take a virus that causes lumpy skin diseases in cattle and another that causes goat pox in goats and sheep pox in sheep. They are all pox vaccines and we’ve been able to show that they are very closely related. If you can make one vaccine, you can protect three different species against three different diseases.”
He’s helped pioneer the development of vaccines used by livestock producers worldwide, and now he’s the first Canadian to be named a World Agriculture Prize Laureate.
Lorne Babiuk, world-renowned virologist and vice-president of research at the University of Alberta, was awarded the prestigious prize in recognition of his lifetime achievement.
“Vaccines, whether for producers or for humans, have saved more lives than any other medical intervention has,” he said.
Babiuk, who assisted in the creation of six vaccines for livestock, focuses on the development of vaccines for diseases that can transfer from livestock to humans.
Animal vaccines and the prevention of animal disease has a huge impact on human health and economies.
“The rotavirus vaccine (for E. coli/scours) saves hundreds of millions of dollars a year for producers,” he said. “But most importantly, no producer or veterinarian likes to see a young calf die.”
That’s doubly true in the developing world “where a lot of these smallholder farmers are living on $2 a day with four goats,” he added.