Dr. Shayan Sharif has been appointed U of G’s new interim associate vice-president research (agri-food partnership). In this role, Sharif will oversee the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, a collaboration between the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the University of Guelph, providing strategic management and support to the largest single research agreement at the University.

Sharif, currently associate dean (research and graduate studies) in the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) and a professor of immunology, investigates diseases of poultry, including avian influenza, and ways to control these infectious diseases through developing novel vaccines.

“The Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance is in great hands with Dr. Sharif. As well as being thoroughly acquainted with the Alliance – as both a researcher and a former research program director – he is internationally recognized by experts from academia, government and industry for his research excellence, his leadership, and his commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI),” said Rene Van Acker, interim vice-president (research).

The Alliance leverages U of G expertise and brings together academia, government and industry to support Ontario’s $47 billion agri-food sector with cutting-edge research and innovation, training and laboratory services. It increases Ontario’s GDP by $1.4 billion and has an annual economic impact of approximately $120 million.

In making the announcement, Van Acker thanked Dr. Beverley Hale for her leadership in the role. During her five-year term, Hale’s many accomplishments included the building and opening of a new, state-of-the-art beef research centre, the building of a new swine research centre and the renegotiation of U of G’s landmark agreement with OMAFRA.

In this role, Sharif will lead research programs and training as well as diverse agri-food research centres owned by the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario and operated by U of G, including at U of G’s Ridgetown Campus. He will oversee the Laboratory Services Division as well as relationships with numerous public- and private-sector partners.

“This is the largest single research collaboration at the University, and through several decades of this partnership, we have made discoveries and innovations leading to prosperity for the Ontario agri-food industry and safeguarding the health of our environment, plants, animals and humans in the province of Ontario and beyond,” said Sharif.

“I have been one of the beneficiaries of this collaboration from the time I was a student at OVC to the time I became a faculty member in 2001. I can say unequivocally that without the Alliance, I would not have been able to conduct my research and train my students.”

Internationally recognized for his work on animal-pathogen interactions, Sharif is an expert on the avian influenza virus and studies food-borne pathogens that can be passed to humans via poultry products. He and his research team develop immunization and other methods to curb the impact and spread of these diseases.

Sharif leads the Poultry Health Research Network, a team of poultry health experts from academia, government and industry. He also co-leads a translational health initiative at U of G that brings together veterinary and human health research to usher scientific discoveries from the lab into treatment for animals and humans.

As part of this work, Sharif advocates a One Health approach — recognizing the interdependency of human, animal and environmental health — to address complex health issues.

His term begins October 1, 2023.