Hank Harris saves millions of lives annually—all within the animal kingdom.
Throughout his career, Harris has made a job change every five or six years, rising from an assistant professor at Iowa State University in 1970 to a professor of agriculture and veterinary medicine, then leading vaccine-maker Noble Labs; that was followed by the vice presidency of Pig Improvement Co., and finally returning to teaching at Iowa State in 1992. He also wrote a book, and his work took on a specific focus: pigs.
Harris became a trailblazer within the farming community when he demonstrated that piglets must be put in an isolated nursery once they are weaned from the sow—a technique now adopted worldwide.
With the founding of his current business, Harrisvaccines, his second pioneering initiative surfaced. Vaccine production times had been averaging close to a year, but technology helped Harris slash that turnaround time. In fact, Harris says, “of the four weeks, two are quality control. So actually we’ve got the vaccine made in just two weeks.”
His son, Joel, head of sales and marketing at Harrisvaccines, emphasizes it was the first company to produce a vaccine for H1N1, also known as swine flu.
It was also the first company to get USDA approval for a vaccine for the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus last year, he adds—“a big deal in the industry and cause of over 8 million piglet deaths.”
Vaccine processing became so expedited that the USDA had to rewrite regulations for Harrisvaccines. Now, nine of the top 10 pork producers in the United States use Harrisvaccines products.
Tackling the avian flu, which this year has killed a reported 9 million birds in Minnesota alone, has been Harris’ most recent challenge.
His company crafted a 100 percent match to the strain, which is awaiting USDA approval.