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Linda J. Saif, PhD.

Distinguished University Professor

Professor Linda J. Saif

Degrees and Credentials:

  • BA, 1969, The College of Wooster, Wooster, OH
  • MS, 1971, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
  • PhD, 1976, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH



    Dr. Linda Saif is a Distinguished University Professor at The Ohio State University (OSU) in the Food Animal Health Research Program (CFAES, OARDC) 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. She also conducts research on foodborne viruses including noroviruses and sapoviruses.

    Coronavirus research in Saif lab

    Dr Saif's coronavirus research spans 4 decades and includes her MS and PhD research on swine coronaviruses, immunity and vaccines. Dr. Saif is known nationally and internationally for her work on enteric viruses (rotaviruses, caliciviruses and coronaviruses) that affect food-producing animals, wildlife, and humans (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses. Dr. Saif’s lab was the first in 1995 to document the interspecies transmission of coronaviruses from wild ruminants to cattle and from cattle to poultry. In cattle, Dr. Saif’s lab documented that respiratory coronavirus infections frequently occur in animals shortly after periods of stress such as arrival to feedlots following long-distance shipping, and her lab identified them as a component of the shipping fever complex. Her research on ruminant coronaviruses and their interspecies transmission is particularly relevant to the documented zoonotic transmission of MERS from camels to humans in the Middle East. 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. Dr. Saif has assisted the U.S. CDC to better understand SARS to prevent or control future pandemic threats. 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. With the new Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in December 2019 in China, she is providing expertise about this new virus and on how to control its spread at the local, regional, national and international levels.

    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), the American Academy of Microbiology (2004) and the National Academy of Inventors (2017). 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, OIE, etc), she was a Fulbright Scholar (Argentina) and she serves on several journal editorial boards (Proc Nat Acad Sci, Ann Rev Animal Biosciences, Frontiers in Immunology, etc). Dr. Saif holds 5 US/foreign patents and has authored or coauthored over 380 journal publications and 72 book chapters pertaining to her research.


    Other Honors

    • 1965-69 The College of Wooster, Honors Scholarship & Honors in Biology
    • 1976 Elected to Phi Kappa Phi, National Honor Society; Phi Zeta, Veterinary Medicine Honor Society
    • 1987 Invited Distinguished Visiting Professor, Univ. of Guelph, College of Veterinary Medicine, Canada
    • 1989 Beecham Laboratories Award for Research Excellence, College of Veterinary Medicine, OSU
    • 1990 The American College of Veterinary Microbiologists, Elected Honorary Diplomate
    • 1992 Distinguished Senior Scientist Research Award, OARDC, OSU
    • 1992 Fulbright Scholar, Inst. of Virology, INTA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
    • 1995 University Distinguished Scholar Award, OSU
    • 1995 Fellow, American Assoc for the Advancement of Science
    • 1995 Slected Distinguished Veterinary Immunologist, American Assoc Veterinary Immunologists
    • 2002 Selected as Distinguished University Professor, The Ohio State University
    • 2003 Honorary Doctorate, University of Ghent, Belgium
    • 2003 Elected Member, US National Academy of Sciences
    • 2004 Elected Member, US Academy of Microbiology
    • 2004 Chosen AARP One of 10 Impact People of the Year for 2004, AARP Magazine
    • 2006 Lifelong Achievement Serving Agriculture and Improving Health in Communities Throughout the World, Ohio Farm Bureau.
    • 2007 Awarded Distinguished Alumni Award, The College of Wooster, Wooster, OH
    • 2008 Inductee, Hall of Excellence from the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges, OH
    • 2009 Elected to membership, Argentine Academia Nacional de Agronomia y Veterinaria (Argentine National Academy of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine)
    • 2009 Elected Chair, Section 61- Animal, Nutritional, and Applied Microbial Sciences of the National Academy of Science, Washington, DC, 2010-2012.
    • 2009 Invited Visiting Professor, University of Bari, Bari, Italy, April 17-24, 2009.
    • 2009 Recipient, Zu Kezhen Distinguished Lectureship for 2009 to deliver lectures at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China, October 12-23, 2009

    Research Area

    As a virologist and immunologist, my research focuses on comparative aspects, including the zoonotic potential, of enteric and respiratory viruses (coronaviruses, rotaviruses and caliciviruses) of food animals and humans. A related focus is mucosal immunity to these viruses and vaccine development. Our laboratory discovered the gut-mammary immunologic axis, a new concept leading to recognition of a common mucosal immune system in animals and humans. We exploited this concept to design vaccination approaches to prevent enteric viral infections of neonates. We continue to elucidate the immunologic interrelationships, T and B cell memory responses and maternal antibody impact among distinct mucosal tissues to devise new vaccine strategies for neonates. A current emphasis is on bioengineering of rotavirus-like-particle vaccines with immunomodulators to prevent rotavirus diarrhea, a leading cause of morbidity in young animals and mortality in infants. Our lab discovered, characterized and developed novel cultivation methods and diagnostic assays for new fastidious enteric viruses including group C rotavirus, a bovine torovirus and porcine and bovine enteric caliciviruses. Using our recently developed infectious viral clones, we are pursuing the genetic basis for in vitro replication and in vivo virulence of enteric caliciviruses. This research should unlock new avenues of investigation for uncultivable human caliciviruses, leading causes of food-borne illness worldwide. Besides comparative pathogenesis studies of animal and human enteric viruses in gnotobiotic animals, we are also investigating their antigenic and genetic relationships to assess their zoonotic potential and mechanisms for interspecies transmission and disease exacerbation.