AgriLabs today announced that it has developed a set of master seeds for a replication-deficient human adenovirus vector that expresses select genes for several different serotypes of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV). Although existing FMD vaccines are available in the U.S. and elsewhere, these new seeds are the first to use a live adenovirus as a vector for select genes from FMD virus. This new technology allows FMD vaccines to be made without the biosecurity hazard of having actual FMD virus in a U.S. manufacturing facility.
“We know that infecting animals with a weakened or attenuated version of an infectious agent generally produces a better immune response than inactivated antigens,” says Dr. Tim Miller, chief scientific officer of AgriLabs. “However, in the case of FMD, the risk of producing a harmful infection in vaccinated animals has prevented the industry from developing a live attenuated vaccine.”
Now, by integrating select genes from the FMD virus into an adenovirus vector, causing it to produce proteins related to an FMD infection, this technology allows for both the efficacy of a live attenuated vaccine and the safety of existing subunit or inactivated antigen-based vaccines.
“Because we’re using a replication-deficient adenovirus as the vector expressing the capsid genes of the FMD virus, we believe these vaccines will mimic a natural infection and therefore do a better job than an inactivated antigen of stimulating an immune response,” Miller says. “And, because we’re only using a limited piece of the genetic material from the FMD virus, there’s no risk of causing a harmful infection.”
Benchmark Biolabs, a subsidiary of AgriLabs, received funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate, contract HSHQDC-12-C-00127, to develop the new vaccines.
Although the U.S. has been free of FMD since 1929, a 2013 analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service estimated that the cost of a major outbreak here could run into the tens of billions of dollars.