STORIES in Agriculture and Life Sciences

Article Title

Science Sells


Barbara McBreen


When you walk into Harrisvaccines Inc. you can feel the energy. The glass doors surrounding the reception area reveal offices with employees intently studying computer screens and deep in discussion. Like any startup, this scene has taken time and energy to establish. The business got its start in 2005 when Hank Harris, professor of animal science and veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine at Iowa State University, and Matt Erdman, a doctoral student, discovered a vaccine to prevent Porcine Reproductive Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS). The PRRS virus causes infertility and reproductive problems in pigs and can be economically devastating to producers. The two scientists decided to start the business in order to market, develop and distribute the vaccine. The company started out as Sirrah and changed its name to Harrisvaccines Inc. in 2008. "In 2009, Harrisvaccines was the first company to market a vaccine for the novel H1N1 virus for swine," Harris says. "Today the company is thriving and making progress in finding solutions to PRRS and other diseases." Since its start, the company has grown from one lab with two scientists to four labs with 20 employees. In February, the company received the Tibbetts Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration for advancing technological innovation and economic growth.