New vaccine technology offers multi-benefits for livestock producers

Jul 30, 2003

Better, safer and cheaper for producers - these are the goals of a new era of vaccine research and development for the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO).

"Our new technologies are leading edge in scientific terms," says Dr. Philip Griebel, Manager of the Immunology Program at VIDO. "The focus is on improved practical aspects of vaccines and vaccine delivery methods that benefit livestock producers and maintain Canada's competitive edge."

Increased efficiency, ease of management and reduced cost are the main improvements that livestock producers are looking for in vaccines, he says. Finding broad-based solutions to these issues will benefit both industry and society in ensuring a safe and dependable food supply, and quality products that support Canada in key livestock markets.

There are many factors that affect vaccine efficiency, says Griebel. These include the time a producer spends delivering vaccines, along with the potency, longevity and function of the products.

Because producers across all livestock sectors face the same efficiency challenges, VIDO is focusing heavily on the development of "platform technologies", he says. These are technologies that are not disease or animal specific, but offer benefits for multiple diseases and livestock types.

"A good example of a VIDO platform technology is the new DNA-based vaccines our scientists are working on," says Griebel. Created to better mimic how infectious diseases attack and are recognized by the animal body, they have faster, less fallible, and longer-lasting effects than traditional products and can be modified for various species.

Another example is the development of combination vaccines that target the functional aspect of vaccines, continues Griebel. Following the one-for-all principle, 'combi-vaccines' can induce immunity to numerous diseases in one shot.

Combi-vaccines are a central VIDO research focus because the combination trait is attractive to both producers and pharmaceutical manufacturers, he explains. VIDO's long term goal is to collaborate with manufacturers in commercializing these new vaccine products.

Improved systems for vaccine delivery with regard to time efficiency and safety is another area where VIDO has employed the platform technology approach, and one for which the organization has attracted international attention.

"Traditional vaccine injection is time consuming, aggravates both producer and animal, and causes tissue damage that results in price reductions on slaughter livestock," says Griebel. "VIDO is exploring a number of less invasive methods for vaccine delivery. To date, the most promising method is oral delivery of gel capsules containing vaccine. Eventually we hope to be able to integrate vaccines in livestock feed."

"Cost may be the biggest issue that livestock producers have with vaccines," he says. "At VIDO, we work with the principle that new products should be inexpensive and easy to manufacture."

The platform technology approach has opened many doors, facilitating scientific progress at several levels, says Griebel. "But the ultimate goal is to transform this science into commercial products - new vaccines that will save producers time and money, and improve the productivity of their operations."

VIDO is a world leader in vaccine research for the control of infectious diseases in food animals and poultry and is a wholly owned University of Saskatchewan not-for-profit institute. It operates with substantial support from the Government of Alberta and the Government of Saskatchewan as well as Government of Canada competitive grants.