Harrisvaccines has been awarded a $1.114 million contract from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate to develop an RNA Particle (RP) vaccine to potentially protect the United States from foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), the company announced.
FMD is caused by the highly infectious FMD virus (FMDV), which produces blisters in the mouth and feet of cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle and swine. The U.S. has been FMDV-free since 1929, but the disease represents a significant threat to U.S. agriculture.
According to a 2011 report by Iowa State University's Center for Food Security and Public health, "FMD is considered by many to be the most economically devastating livestock disease in the world: it is highly transmissible; results in economic losses in animal production; and depopulation, the most effective means of control, would cost producers and the governments millions or even billions of dollars."
Harrisvaccines will use the contract over the next 34 months to develop an RNA Particle vaccine against FMDV. The company's unique RP platform technology allows for the vaccine to be manufactured without handling the infectious FMD virus; only a gene sequence from the virus is needed to prepare the vaccine. This characteristic allows the RP-based FMDV vaccine to be produced in Harrisvaccines' USDA-licensed production facility in Ames. Production of FMDV vaccines using traditional methods in the U.S. is not allowed due to the significant risk of releasing the virus into FMD-free U.S. during production.
"We are very excited for the opportunity to use our RNA Particle vaccine technology in a project this significant to U.S. agriculture," says Dr. Kurt Kamrud, Vice President of Research and Chief Scientific Officer for Harrisvaccines. "Our rapid response technology allows us to produce large amounts of vaccine quickly. And, because only a portion of the FMDV genetic information is required to generate a vaccine, the RP-based approach will allow for the differentiation of infected from vaccinated animals (DIVA) when used with current and next generation FMD serology-based diagnostic assays, which is very important in the event of an outbreak."
Should an outbreak occur, a fast and effective vaccine will help prevent the spread of infection, which would be devastating to U.S. agriculture if not interrupted with a DIVA compliant solution, Kamrud added.
Headquartered in Ames, Iowa, Harrisvaccines focuses on revolutionizing animal health vaccines and enhancing productivity in the swine, cattle, equine, and farmed shrimp industries. Using state-of-the-art advanced molecular science, Harrisvaccines employs a unique RNA platform to develop products for animal diseases. For more information, visit www.harrisvaccines.com.