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Research grant will help develop Foot-and-Mouth Disease vaccine

April 13, 2010

[Source: The Cattle Business Weekly]

An international collaborative group of research institutions and industry announced that it has received approximately $2 million from the Wellcome Trust for a 3-year project to develop improved Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccines.

Researchers from the Institute for Animal Health (United Kingdom), University of Oxford (United Kingdom), Agricultural Research Council-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute (South-Africa), Agricultural Research Service, USDA – Foreign Animal Disease Research Unit at Plum Island (United States) and Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health (The Netherlands) have joined together to use the latest molecular biology techniques to improve conventional vaccines against this disease.

FMD viruses are prone to mutation, which means that new vaccine strains have to be continually developed. This involves adapting a strain of virus from the field to be able to infect the specialized cells that are used for the vaccine manufacturing process. However, during this process, the virus can change in other ways such that it no longer resembles the field virus and doesn’t offer protection against the disease.

“The consortium will capitalize on the expertise of the participating organizations to develop a standard procedure whereby strains of FMD virus can be modified to make virus particles that are both more stable and able to attach well to the cells that are used to make FMD vaccines on a commercial scale”, explained Dr. Bryan Charleston at the Institute for Animal Health, who leads the partnership. “By increasing the efficacy, improving stability and increasing the production yield, we hope to make FMD vaccines that are more cost-effective for widespread use.”

Richard Seabrook, Head of Business Development at the Wellcome Trust said: “The Wellcome Trust is delighted to support this international collaboration to develop better, more cost effective vaccines against FMD. This much needed development should help to reduce the huge economic burden that the disease places on the farming industry, particularly in the developing world.”

FMD is an infectious disease affecting cloven-hoofed animals, in particular cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and deer. The disease is serious for animal health and for the economics of the livestock industry. While FMD is not normally fatal to adult animals, it is debilitating and causes significant loss of productivity; for example milk yields may drop or the animals may become lame. In young animals it can be fatal on a large scale.

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