Science & Technology

Nobel laureate Peter C. Doherty to speak at UGA

Peter C. Doherty

Athens, Ga. – Nobel laureate Peter C. Doherty will discuss his two latest books on the University of Georgia campus Sept. 10 at 3 p.m. A book sale and signing will coincide with the event, which will be held in Room H237 of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s main academic building. The event is free and open to the public; seating is limited.

Doherty’s two latest titles-“Pandemics: What Everyone Needs to Know” (Oxford University Press USA) and “Their Fate is our Fate: How Birds Foretell Threats to our Health and our World” (The Experiment)-will be available for purchase. The books will be released in late August and September, respectively.

In 1996, Doherty and fellow researcher Dr. Rolf M. Zinkernagel received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their discovery of how the body’s immune system recognizes infected cells. Their research was conducted from 1973-75 at the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra, Australia.

In his first new book, “Pandemics: What Everyone Needs to Know,” Doherty explains the causes of pandemics, how they can be counteracted with vaccines and drugs and how to better prepare for them.

Doherty notes the term “pandemic” refers not to a disease’s severity but to its ability to spread rapidly over a wide geographical area. Extremely lethal pathogens are usually quickly identified and confined. However, the rise of high-speed transportation networks and the globalization of trade and travel have radically accelerated the spread of diseases. Doherty explains how the main threat of a pandemic comes from respiratory viruses, such as influenza and SARS, which disseminate with incredible speed through air travel. Also complicating the efforts to control pandemics are the climate disruptions of global warming, rising population density and growing antibiotic resistance.

Pandemics can be fought effectively, Doherty said. Often simple health practices, especially in hospitals, can help enormously. Research into the animal reservoirs of pathogens, from SARS in bats to HIV in chimpanzees, shows promise for prevention efforts.

In “Their Fate is our Fate: How Birds Foretell Threats to our Health and our World,” Doherty uses personal stories and colorful examples to illustrate how birds are vital to scientific research. By studying birds, researchers can further understand the nature of human diseases such as cancer, malaria and influenza and develop new vaccines and cures. By endangering the lives of birds through human activities, Doherty said, humans ultimately present a threat to their own well-being.

Doherty, a native of Australia, received his bachelor’s degree in veterinary science in 1962 and his master’s degree in veterinary science in 1966 from the University of Queensland, Australia. He later earned his doctorate from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

In 1988, he moved to Memphis, Tenn., and joined St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as chair of the department of immunology and now holds the Michael F. Tamer Chair of Biomedical Research. Doherty currently divides his time between Memphis and Australia, where he also is on faculty at the University of Melbourne as a laureate professor in the department of microbiology and immunology.

At Doherty’s talk, the University of Georgia Bookstore will handle sales of the books and will accept cash, checks and credit cards.

UGA College of Veterinary Medicine
The College of Veterinary Medicine, founded in 1946 at UGA, is dedicated to training future veterinarians, conducting research related to animal and human diseases and providing veterinary services for animals and their owners. Research efforts are aimed at enhancing the quality of life for animals and people, improving the productivity of poultry and livestock and preserving a healthy interface between wildlife and people in the environment they share. The college enrolls 102 students each fall out of more than 800 who apply. For more information, see

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