During the WINDREF dinner at the UK House of Lords, hosted by Baroness Howell’s of St. David’s on Thursday 27 April 2017, the Mike Fisher Memorial Award for 2016 and 2017 were presented. The 2017 Mike Fisher Memorial award recipient is Dr. Charles R. Modica, founding Chancellor of St. George’s University.Chancellor Modica had the vision of creating a school of medicine, which matriculated its charter class on 17 January 1977. In 1994, a school of graduate studies was formed and in 1999 the school of veterinary medicine and a Masters of Public Health program matriculated their charter classes. These schools have graduated more than 15,000 professionals who work in more than 50 countries. The creation and evolution of a sympatric medical school, veterinary school, public health department, the WINDREF research institute, the WHO Collaborating Center on Environmental and Occupational Health and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Regional Collaboration Center (UNFCCC RCC) provides an ideal environment and opportunities for faculty and students to be exposed to the philosophy of One Health.The 2016 Mike Fisher Memorial Award recipient is presented to Sir Gordon Conway (left), by the 2014 award recipient, Professor Alan Fenwick
The 2016 Mike Fisher Memorial Award recipient is Sir Gordon Conway, Professor of International Development at Imperial College London. Sir Conway has had a distinguished career in the field of sustainable agriculture, spanning 40 years. In 1998, Sir Gordon was elected the 11th president of the Rockefeller Foundation, in 2004 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and 2005 he was elected President of the Royal Geographical Society. He has written many books, including in 2012, “One Billion Hungry – Can we Feed the World?
Mike Fisher graduated from King’s College, London University with a Doctor of Philosophy in chemistry/ pharmacology. He joined Merck in 1957 and worked with them until he had a stroke in early 2004. He was vice president of research and headed a lab of 60 research scientists of whom over half were postdoctoral fellows. His most recent research involved studies on cures for pain and diabetes. It was his scientific intellect and observational scholarship which led to perhaps his most profound discovery of ivermectin. In the 1970’s his lab was receiving thousands of soil and plant samples from all over the world which he was screening for their effects on a number of organisms. One sample came from a bunker from a golf course in Japan that contained a fungus called Streptomyces avermillis. This fungus proved to be lethal to Mike’s lab mice and when others may have discarded the compound Mike persevered and tried ever minute doses of the substance. He was amazed at how little compound completely removed nematodes from the mice …. and a new powerful drug against roundworm parasites was born. For his discovery Mike received the Thomas Edison award for creative discovery and the veterinary and medical world received a compound that revolutionized the treatment and cure of a myriad of infectious diseases. Today as a result of the discovery of ivermectin over 35 million people no longer live under the threat of inevitably going blind from onchocerciasis (river blindness), millions more have been spared the gross disfigurement from lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis and hydrocoele) and dogs and cats (heartworm), pigs, cattle, sheep, goats and horses live a healthier life because of ivermectin. Shockingly if the astute observation on ivermectin had not been made by Mike all of these benefits may never have evolved for the organism has never again been found in its natural state in the wild. Mike was one of the most modest self effacing scientists, a real gentleman, and it was indeed a great honor to have known him. Mike passed away at his Bel Air plantation home on 20th April 2005. So many people and animals have benefited from Mike’s work, his legacy will not be forgotten.
In 2015, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was partially awarded to Drs. William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura for their contributions to the discovery of Ivermectin – a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites. Had he survived, Mike Fisher would have also shared in this recognition, as William C. Campbell worked with Mike Fisher at Merck, and Satoshi Ōmura was the Japanese collaborator where the organism that eventually led to the discovery of Ivermectin was retrieved from a golf bunker.
Cal Macpherson, Director, WINDREF
Dr. Charles R. Modica
Sir Gordon Conway
Professor Alan Fenwick
Professor R. C. Andrew Thompson
Dr. Donald Hopkins
Professor Ade Lucas
Lord John Walton
Dr. John David
Lord May of Oxford
Dr. Keith B. Taylor
Lord Lawson Soulsby of Swaffham Prior