Food-Animal Vaccines that Keep Pace with Evolving Viruses

The Problem

Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent diseases in animals, particularly those in the worldwide food supply. However, some viruses that cause disease evolve quickly, changing form and rendering existing vaccines increasingly ineffective.

Pharmaceutical firms are looking for ways for vaccines to keep up with these mutating virus threats, and a process to more quickly deliver up-to-date vaccines to market. However, most vaccine manufacturers don’t have the technical expertise on staff to continuously monitor these viruses or alter their vaccines in real time.

The Expert

Dr. Daral Jackwood, a professor in the Food Animal Health Research Program at The Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, Ohio, has explored this possibility for years. In fact, his breakthrough came some 13 years ago using genetic engineering to develop virus-like particle (VLP) technology for animal vaccines. Ohio State patented the technique.  

“Viruses mutate as they evolve, and current vaccines aren’t keeping up,” said Jackwood. His discovery led to the creation of a highly flexible vaccine that researchers can add to or alter, and could allow pharmaceutical firms to readily update their products in reaction to changes in live viruses in the field, coming to market quickly with new vaccines.

In 2014, Jackwood licensed the technology from Ohio State for his spinoff company LARAD, Inc. The company helps vaccine firms monitor virus changes and rapidly produce new and updated vaccine solutions. 

The Solution

Two international pharmaceutical firms partnered with Jackwood and LARAD to develop these customizable vaccines, and another company is working to develop diagnostic kits using the VLP technology to detect antibodies that result from the new virus mutations.

The original vaccine is aimed at an immunosuppressive disease in chickens, which due to the virus mutations, can no longer effectively protect chickens from the disease. It is with the United States Department of Agriculture for testing and licensing, and Jackwood hopes for commercialization by the end of 2018. Another vaccine is targeting an infectious virus found in cold-water fish and is needed most critically in fish farming operations.