Leading DPI virologist wins Scientist of the Year award

Dr Peter Kirkland’s win in the plant and animals sciences  category of the NSW Scientist of the Year Awards has today been praised by NSW  Minister for Primary Industries, Ian Macdonald.

“This win provides due recognition for Dr Kirkland’s crucial  role during last year’s equine influenza outbreak and his significant  contribution to animal sciences over the last 33 years,” Minister Macdonald  said.

“Throughout the horse flu crisis Dr Kirkland and his  virology team at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute (EMAI) played a  crucial role in providing rapid diagnosis of the highly contagious EI virus,”  Minister Macdonald said.

“Dr Kirkland refined procedures to speed up EI testing and  established a system for high throughput processing and testing of samples.

“Around 135,000 EI tests were processed through EMAI, with  more than 2,300 a day during the peak of the testing program.

“Without the fast turnaround of samples, beating EI could  have much longer, costing millions of dollars more and causing further hardship  to those dependent on horses for their income.”

Minister Macdonald said Dr Kirkland has had a long and  distinguished career with NSW DPI, specialising in research into viral diseases  of animals.

“Dr Kirkland began his DPI career at Newcastle in 1975 as a  veterinary officer, working his way up to leading the world class EMAI  diagnostic and research virology laboratory, Minister Macdonald said.

“Along the way Dr Kirkland has been instrumental in many  major breakthroughs, identification of new diseases and the development of  important diagnostic tests and vaccines.

“He helped develop an effective vaccine for Akabane virus in cattle  that is now used around the world.

“His team identified the  Menangle virus in pigs, developed a diagnostic test for pestiviruses and produced rabbit  calicivirus for field release in Australia and New Zealand.

“Many diagnostic services and discoveries by Dr Kirkland and  his team have been commercialised and are now generating royalties for NSW DPI.”

Minister Macdonald said the economic value of Dr Kirkland’s  work to the people of NSW should not be underestimated.

“Dr Kirkland has saved millions of dollars by reducing livestock losses  and exotic animal disease control costs, generated millions more in revenue for  the State through the commercial application of his work and helped facilitate significant  trade income through the international free trade of safe animal genetic material,”  he said.

Peter Kirkland's Staff prfoile