Funding awarded to develop vaccines for bovine tuberculosis and Johne’s disease

Jul 23, 2015

Work to develop vaccines against two diseases that attack the lungs and intestinal tract of cattle has received a $2.9 million boost from Genome Canada to co-fund research at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan.

Bovine tuberculosis affects the lungs of cattle and bison, and wild species such as deer and elk. It can, in some cases, be transmitted to humans. While more prevalent in the developing world, where it causes annual losses of about $3 billion, managing the disease also carries a multi-million-dollar price tag in Canada. Johne’s disease, caused by a related species of bacteria, results in chronic inflammation of the intestinal tract in cattle. It is a particular problem for dairy herds, causing the animals to sicken and sometimes die.

VIDO-InterVac researchers and their collaborators in Canada and Ireland aim to deliver two new vaccines for these costly mycobacterial diseases. The funding, awarded through Genome Canada’s Genomics and Feeding the Future program, is part of a $7.4 million project over four years.

The team, which includes collaborators at the University of British Columbia and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Northern Ireland will use a genomics-based approach called ‘reverse vaccinology’ to identify disease proteins that the cattle immune system will recognize as foreign and react to. Identification of these proteins is the first step in developing novel vaccines. The project will use VIDO-InterVac’s state-of-the-art containment level 3 facility.

“We have the only facility in Canada with the capacity to conduct vaccine development and testing of this magnitude.” said VIDO-InterVac director Andrew Potter. “Our team will take full advantage of VIDO-InterVac’s containment infrastructure to develop vaccines that will not only improve the health of cattle, but will also enhance Canada’s reputation as a major agri-food producer.”

Project co-lead, Robert Hancock, director of the Centre for Microbial Diseases and Immunity Research from the University of British Columbia, agreed.

“This grant is further evidence that our long term collaboration with VIDO-InterVac produces outstanding results that solve economically-important problems."

The researchers plan to develop and bring to market vaccines for these costly diseases within two years’ of the project’s end.