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Public Health Preparedness for Infectious Disease

Ohio State Scientist First Woman to Receive International Agriculture Honor

Linda Saif is an international authority on viral diseases of animals that also sicken humans. (Photo by Ken Chamberlain)

Linda Saif, a scientist in Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), has been awarded the 2015 Wolf Prize in Agriculture for her work on viral diseases of critical importance to farm animals, food safety and human health.

Saif is the first Ohio State scientist and the first woman to receive this recognition, awarded since 1978 by the Wolf Foundation of Israel. The award will be presented at a ceremony to be held at the Knesset — Israel’s parliament — in Jerusalem on May 31.

In addition to agriculture, the Wolf Prize is given for achievement in the fields of chemistry, mathematics, medicine, physics and the arts. Past recipients include Stephen Hawking and Peter Higgs.

"Dr. Linda Saif’s work exemplifies our college’s commitment to conducting meaningful research that benefits agriculture as well as human health and well-being,” said Bruce McPheron, vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES. “This prestigious award is a testament to the world-class research we do at Ohio State.”

A Distinguished University professor in the Food Animal Health Research Program, Saif is an internationally recognized virologist and immunologist. A graduate of Ohio State, she joined the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center as a post-doctoral researcher in 1976 and has been on the faculty in CFAES and the College of Veterinary Medicine since 1979. OARDC is the research arm of CFAES.

In selecting Saif for the Wolf Prize in Agriculture, the Wolf Foundation noted how “her discoveries of novel enteric and respiratory viruses of food animals and humans have led to her extensive contributions of fundamental knowledge of the gut-mammary immunologic axis and has provided new ways to design vaccines and vaccination strategies.” These discoveries “have contributed immensely to the improvement of global food safety, food production as well as animal and human health.”  

Additionally, the Wolf Foundation highlighted Saif’s diligent work “as a scientific advisor and mentor for a large number of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, many of whom have gone on to become prominent scientists and leading animal health experts in developed and developing countries around the world.”

Saif has authored or coauthored more than 300 refereed journal publications and 58 book chapters on mucosal immunity; mucosal vaccines; rotavirus, calicivirus, and animal coronavirus infections; and the use of animal models for human viral diseases. She has received competitive grants from U.S. and international agencies totaling over $25 million.

“The former recipients of the Wolf Prize in Agriculture whom I know personally are members or foreign associates of the National Academy of Sciences and have made significant and original contributions to agriculture,” Saif said. “It is a humbling experience and a major honor for me as a new recipient to be in the company of such esteemed colleagues and pioneers in their fields. I am also highly honored for being the first female recipient of the Wolf Prize in Agriculture.”

Saif’s previous recognitions include membership into the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Argentine National Academy of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine, an honorary doctorate from Belgium’s University of Ghent, and the Distinguished Veterinary Immunologist Award from the American Association of Veterinary Immunologists.