Dr. Linda Saif is a Distinguished University Professor at The Ohio State University (OSU) in the Center for Food Animal Health (CFAH) and the Veterinary Preventive Medicine Department (CVM, OSU). She is a virologist and immunologist, whose research focuses on comparative aspects of enteric and respiratory viral infections (coronaviruses, rotaviruses and caliciviruses) of food animals and humans. Her lab studies mucosal immunity and vaccine development and is currently focusing on the impact of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies on vaccines and interactions of probiotics and the gut microbiota with the neonatal immune system, vaccines and viral pathogenesis. Her team’s discovery of the gut-mammary secretory IgA axis (initial description of a common mucosal immune system) in swine was a breakthrough for development of maternal coronavirus vaccines to passively protect neonatal animals. Her lab identified new enteric viruses (group C rotavirus, caliciviruses), characterized their pathogenesis and developed novel cultivation methods, diagnostic assays and vaccines for them. Her current research emphasizes attenuated and novel bioengineered virus-like particle (VLP) vaccines and adjuvants (vitamin A, probiotics) to prevent viral diarrheas in humans and animals and their evaluation in germfree animal disease models. Her lab also investigates the interrelationships among animal viruses, especially coronaviruses, and their human counterparts to assess their zoonotic potential, mechanisms of interspecies transmission and potential vaccines.
Dr. Saif is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (2003) and the Argentine Academia Nacional de Agronomía y Veterinaria (2009). She is an elected Fellow of the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists (1990), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1995) and the American Academy of Microbiology (2004). She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Ghent, Belgium (2003). In 2015, she became the first woman to receive the Wolf Prize in Agriculture. She has served as a member of advisory teams for various US and international organizations (USAID, CDC, WHO, etc), she was a Fulbright Scholar (Argentina) and she serves on several journal editorial boards (Proc Nat Acad Sci, Ann Rev Animal Biosciences). Her laboratory serves as a WHO International Reference Lab for Animal Coronaviruses within the SARS Coronavirus Network and as an International Reference Lab for TGEV porcine coronavirus for the Office International des Epizooties, Paris, France. Dr. Saif has authored or coauthored over 400 journal publications and 78 book chapters pertaining to her research. A detailed list of her publications is available on request.
Research Focus: Viral gastroenteritis is a leading cause of neonatal morbidity and mortality worldwide in infants and animals, but vaccines often fail in impoverished countries or in neonatal animals. My lab has a long-term interest in passive (lactogenic) and mucosal immunity and enteric viral vaccines and adjuvants/immunomodulators for neonates including maternal vaccines to passively protect neonatal animals. We also conduct comparative studies of foodborne, enteric and respiratory viruses of humans and animals including caliciviruses (noroviruses and sapoviruses), rotaviruses and coronaviruses. Our focus is on investigating the interrelationships among animal viruses and their human counterparts to assess their zoonotic potential, mechanisms of interspecies transmission and potential vaccines, with an emphasis on emerging coronaviruses of humans and animals (SARS, MERS, SARS-CoV-2, PEDV, PDCoV, etc). Dr. Saif was a lead consultant to the WHO during the 2003 SARS outbreak and her laboratory is a WHO International Reference Lab for Animal coronaviruses in the SARS network. She served as an animal coronavirus expert for the Ministry of Agriculture in Saudi Arabia to advise officials on MERS in camels and control strategies. Her lab was an International Reference Lab for TGEV porcine coronavirus for the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), Paris, France. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she is providing expertise about this new SARS-CoV-2, including diagnostics, interspecies transmission, vaccines and strategies to control its spread.
Another goal is the identification of new enteric viruses, characterization of their pathogenesis, and development of novel cultivation methods, diagnostic assays and vaccines for them. We developed and continue to utilize germfree large animal disease models to elucidate the pathogenesis of enteric/respiratory viral infections, the correlates of immunity and to evaluate new approaches to enhance neonatal immunity and vaccines. A current goal is to investigate factors related to failure of enteric viral vaccines in infants in developing countries or in animals and to test new vaccination strategies in germfree piglets. We are currently investigating the impact of micronutrients (vitamin A deficiency), probiotics/commensals, and gut microbiome alterations on the development of neonatal immunity and protection against enteric viral infections and how these factors affect intestinal homeostasis, immunity and the pathogenesis of enteric viruses. Our unique germfree animal models and innovative studies have led to improved oral vaccines, an understanding of maturation of neonatal mucosal immunity and insights into the beneficial effects of probiotics/commensals. Training in my lab focuses on veterinary and molecular virology as well as mucosal immunology, vaccinology and animal models of human disease.