Irish immunologist touched by NZ recognition
2 June 2003 Otago Daily Times

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By JOHN GIBB
 

Pioneering University of Otago deer researcher Prof Frank Griffin has gained more than the usual recognition through becoming an honorary Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Prof Griffin (57), an immunologist and director of the university's deer research laboratory, is an Irish citizen.

Accordingly, he needed, and subsequently received, permission from the office of the Irish president, Mary McAleese, before he could receive an honour from another country.

The New Zealand honour citation states that Prof Griffin is "an internationally recognised immunologist who has made a particular contribution to the understanding of tuberculosis infections in animals".

Research from his laboratory has led to the development of new immune technology to control tuberculosis in deer, and improved diagnostic techniques for cattle and sheep.

Prof Griffin said there was something "extra special" about receiving an honour from New Zealand, given that he was not a New Zealand citizen.

He was touched and excited that his name had been put forward for the honour and that people had also gone to the trouble to gain permission from the Irish authorities on his behalf.

Prof Griffin, who has been on the staff of the university microbiology department since 1973, said he was a "great defender" of New Zealand, where he had now spent more than half his life.

The honour also acknowledged the work of other researchers working on ruminant animals, including at the department's disease research laboratory.

The award also reflected the contributions of his wife, Violet, and family, and he was grateful for their support.

Since 1990, he has been a consultant to the royal family of Saudi Arabia on tuberculosis in oryx and gazelles.

A member of the World Health Organisation working group on tuberculosis vaccines, he has published more than 80 papers and a book.