Ames, Iowa-based Harrisvaccines has been awarded a 1.114 million dollar 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).
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.
Brownfield discussed this development with Joel Harris, vice president of operations with Harrisvaccines.
Iowa company to develop FMD vaccine
An Ames, Iowa-based pharmaceutical company—Harrisvaccines—has been awarded a contract from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to develop a vaccine against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).
Harrisvaccines’ director of operations Joel Harris says the company will use the contract to develop an RNA particle (RP) vaccine to potentially protect the U.S. from FMD. Harris says their unique RP platform technology allows the vaccine to be manufactured without handling the infectious FMD virus.
“Traditional killed or modified live vaccines require amplification of the live virus,” Harris says, “and that’s not the case with our technology.”
Harris says their process focuses on a “rapid response approach”.
“Instead of stockpiling millions of doses of vaccine against a predicted strain, what we’re proposing is that when the outbreak occurs, we respond as quickly as possible,” he says, “and within four weeks, we can produce a vaccine that’s genetically identical to what’s happening in the field.”
FMD is caused by the highly infectious FMD virus, which produces blisters in the mouth and feet of cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle and swine.
The U.S. has been free of the FMD virus since 1929, but government officials believe the disease still represents a significant threat to U.S. agriculture. Some food security experts fear FMD could be used in a future bioterrorism attack in the U.S.
The 34-month contract is for 1.114 million dollars.