Dr Ken Lemon recently took up the position of Principal Scientific Officer in the Virology Branch of Veterinary Sciences Division. Originally from Belfast, Ken has recently returned to Northern Ireland to undertake work on epizootic and emerging viral threats to our livestock industry and to carry out research on improved methods of control, including work on new virus vaccines.
Ken completed a Bachelor degree in Molecular Biology at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) in 2000. Following this he went on to do a PhD in Molecular Virology also at QUB. The PhD work was an investigation of the molecular basis of mumps virus attenuation and how this relates to vaccine safety. After completing his PhD, Ken carried out postdoctoral studies on a number of important respiratory pathogens such as measles virus and respiratory syncytial virus. This work involved utilising viral engineering and advanced bioimaging techniques to examine pathogenicity and attenuation and how to use this knowledge for developing new and improved vaccines.
In 2012, Ken accepted a position with a major biotech company, and was responsible for the development of live-attenuated influenza vaccines. He commented “Working in the influenza vaccine field is never dull. As the virus is constantly evolving we are in a never ending arms race to stay one step ahead. This requires a global effort and depends upon collaborations between academia, industry, governments and healthcare professionals.”
During his time in industry, Ken developed an interest in viruses at the human/animal interface. He said “The swine-origin influenza pandemic of 2009 took everyone by surprise and the threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza remains high. A concerted effort is required in order to meet the challenges posed by influenza and other new and emerging viral threats. This will include better surveillance, diagnostics and containment as well as a better understanding of the biology of the viruses themselves.” In his new role with AFBI, Ken will play an active role in epizootic testing and contingency planning for new and emerging viral diseases that pose a threat to the Northern Ireland livestock industry in addition to developing and testing next generation veterinary vaccines.
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