Yoshi Kawaoka, Ph.D., is a globally recognized influenza expert and professor in the UW–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. He was recognized with the 2017 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award for his efforts to understand and prevent pandemics.
He is an expert avian influenza virus and showed that a 1918-like pandemic influenze virus (Spanish flu) could be recreated again in nature. He also led a group that created a whole-virus vaccine against Ebola that was safe and effective in primates and traveled to Sierra Leone to learn more about the disease.
His work is also changing how flu vaccines are made by providing faster and more cost-effective methods. Kawaoka’s team established a new strategy to generate and manipulate the virus – a system called “reverse genetics” – that has revolutionized the field. In 2007 he co-founded FluGen, a Madison-based company dedicated to preventing and treating both seasonal and pandemic outbreaks that kill hundreds of thousands worldwide.
Kawaoka’s research looks at the Influenza virus: the e molecular mechanism of interspecies transmission of the virus leading to influenza pandemics in humans; and the molecular pathogenesis of influenza in poultry and mammals. With the Ebola virus, he studies the role of viral proteins in pathogenesis and viral replication.
Kawaoka also teaches Veterinary Virology, providing background information in basic virology, as well as a clinically-oriented review of the pathogenesis, diagnosis and management of the major viral diseases of animals.