News

NC State Food Scientist Receives UNC Board of Governors' Highest Faculty Honor

May 8, 2009
North Carolina State University

For more information contact:  Joni Worthington (919) 962-4629 orworthj@northcarolina.edu

May 8, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NC State Food Scientist Receives UNC Board of Governors’ Highest Faculty Honor

CHAPEL HILL – Todd R. Klaenhammer, Distinguished University Professor and William Neal Reynolds Professor in the Department of Food Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences at NC State University, received the O. Max Gardner Award today (Friday, May 8) from the Board of Governors of the multi-campus University of North Carolina.  Recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on the industrial application of molecular genetics to dairy lactic acid bacteria, Klaenhammer’s work has helped make the world’s food-processing industry safer and more productive, and it could now form the basis for new oral delivery systems for vaccines and other biotherapeutics.

The awards, given annually since 1949, were established by the will of Gov. Oliver Max Gardner to recognize faculty who have “made the greatest contributions to the welfare of the human race.”  It is the only award for which all faculty members of the 17 UNC campuses are eligible.  Recipients are nominated by their chancellors and selected by the Board of Governors.  The 2009 award carries a $20,000 cash prize and was presented by Board of Governors Chairman Hannah Gage and Gardner Award Committee Chairman Ann Goodnight of Cary.

A NC State faculty member for the past 31 years, Klaenhammer’s scientific interest in lactic acid bacteria used in food processing began at the University of Minnesota, where he earned an undergraduate degree in microbiology, followed by master’s and doctoral degrees in food science.   He joined the NC State faculty as an assistant professor of food science and microbiology immediately after earning his Ph.D. in 1978, and quickly rose through the academic ranks.  Since 1993, he also has been director of the Southeast Dairy Research Center.

Klaenhammer is best known for his pioneering work in the industrial application of molecular genetics to dairy lactic acid bacteria.  Genetic techniques that he and his colleagues developed to combat bacteriophages—bacterial viruses that occur in milk starter cultures and can slow or halt the fermentation process—are now used in food processing plants around the world to help prevent bacteriophage infections in cheese, yogurt, and other cultured dairy products.

Klaenhammer’s more recent research has focused on functional genomics and the role that certain probiotic or “good” bacteria naturally found in dairy products can play in improving human health.  Increasingly, research indicates that probiotics can stimulate the immune system and promote resistance to gastrointestinal infections.  Within the past year, Klaenhammer and his research team have demonstrated that these probiotic bacteria may also provide an effective delivery system for oral vaccines and other bioactive compounds.  They have already developed an oral vaccine that protects mice from anthrax exposure and are attempting to replicate that success with other important pathogens.  Because lactic acid bacteria can be easily manufactured and stored in a dried form, this approach could provide an important new immunization strategy in less developed countries, where injections may not be feasible.

The author of more than 400 manuscripts, book chapters, and abstracts, Klaenhammer has been awarded 15 patents and was the first food scientist ever elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.   Over the course of his career, he has received numerous other awards and accolades for the excellence of his work.  His many academic and professional awards include the Alexander Quarles Holladay Medal of Excellence from NC State and election as a fellow by the Institute of Food Technologies and the American Academy of Microbiology.

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NOTE TO EDITORS:    Dr. Klaenhammer may be reached at (919) 515-2972 or klaenhammer@ncsu.edu.  An electronic version of this release and a photo of Dr. Klanehammer can be found on the University of North Carolina website at www.northcarolina.edu