Pickering Medal – to recognise excellence and innovation in the practical application of technology: awarded by the Royal Society of New Zealand to Professor Frank Griffin of the University of Otago
Awarded to John Francis Thomas Griffin for the provision of diagnostic tests for the detection of two major bacterial diseases of New Zealand deer, Bovine Tuberculosis and Johne’s disease and a vaccine for the prevention of Yersiniosis in deer.
For three decades Professor Griffin has led an Otago University based research team devoted to solving animal health problems in the deer industry. This award recognises the diagnostic tests and vaccine developed by Professor Frank Griffin and his team for the detection and prevention of the three major bacterial diseases of New Zealand deer, Tuberculosis, Yersiniosis and Johne’s disease. These products and services are estimated to have saved the deer industry between a conservative $80m and $90m of production that would otherwise have been lost to these diseases.
- Tuberculosis – Professor Griffin has inspired and led a group which has developed a series of diagnostic tests for tuberculosis in deer that are more sensitive and specific than the skin test used to screen deer. These tests have been available for farmers since 1990 and have helped reduce the incidence of the disease to very low levels in New Zealand deer.
- Yersiniosis - The vaccine to protect young deer from Yersiniosis, was developed by Professor Griffin in collaboration with Dr Colin Mackintosh and Dr Bryce Buddle of AgResearch. The vaccine was registered in 1992 and its usage has eliminated the disease as a major economic constraint to production for farmers. Before the introduction of this vaccine, some deer farmers would lose up to 20 percent of young stock. With this vaccination programme they are protected for life.
- Johne’s disease – In the last decade Johne’s disease has become the largest single constraint to increased productivity in the national deer herd. The development by Professor Griffin’s lab of a series of tests means infected animals can be identified early and removed from the herd. His work has found that some strains of deer are more susceptible than others to Johne’s disease and the current focus of his work is to find the reasons for this, with the aim of culling susceptible animals from breeding and developing a more disease resistant national deer herd.
Professor Griffin is widely sought after internationally for his advice on livestock diseases and their control and is very highly regarded by the deer industry in New Zealand. His expertise has even been sought by the Kruger National Park in South Africa, famous for its lion population, to help combat the spread of bovine tuberculosis from buffalo to lions and other wildlife species in the park. Since 1989 he has been a consultant to the Royal Saudi Arabian Wildlife Commission, for the control of tuberculosis in Arabian oryx and gazelles.