Ilaria Capua, veterinary expert at an OIE laboratory and eminent member of the OFFLU network, wins the “ Scientific American 50” award

Dr Ilaria Capua, veterinary expert at the OIE Reference Laboratory for avian influenza, based in Padova, Italy, has won the “ Scientific American 50” award, a prize awarded annually by this prestigious scientific magazine to researchers and firms around the world that have made a significant contribution to advances in the field of science, technology or economics.

Dr Capua receives the award for her commitment to the exchange of avian influenza virus strains, samples and genetic sequences, a crucial component of the worldwide surveillance and control strategy for the disease.

The OIE/FAO Network of Expertise on Avian Influenza (OFFLU), of which Dr Capua is Secretary General, was set up specifically to develop research on avian influenza, monitor H5N1 strains worldwide, exchange isolates between animal health laboratories, human health laboratories and the relevant reference laboratories, and then publish the genetic sequences in publicly accessible databases. This is a vital step in enabling human vaccines to be developed as early as possible in the event of a pandemic.

“The OIE founded OFFLU with the FAO and has always supported its activities, while constantly emphasising the importance of human medical research having immediate access to animal virus strains in order to be able to develop effective human vaccines in time”, says the Director General of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). “First and foremost, I must congratulate Dr Ilaria Capua on her professionalism and commitment. She is a credit to the reputation of the OIE’s Reference Laboratories and the historic principles and values of our Organisation.”

January 2008