Platform technologies power a new generation of vaccines

Feb 24, 2003

Vaccine development is heading into new territory. Scientists at the Vaccine & Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) in Saskatoon, Sask., are using innovative methods to build platform technologies – broad-spectrum solutions to general immunization problems.

“Platform technologies are vaccine technologies that are not disease or animal specific,” explains Dr. Lorne Babiuk, director of VIDO. “They offer multiple applications across species and across diseases.” It’s research that with little modification can be used in numerous functions.

Focusing on platform technologies does not mean abandoning specific animal disease solutions, says Babiuk. It’s simply a more powerful research approach, and VIDO is on the forefront of this science.

From a research point of view, the approach is straightforward. VIDO scientists develop a platform technology using a particular disease target that provides solutions for several animal species or several diseases. An example would be vaccine delivery systems. This brings broad benefits to all livestock sectors – including beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine and poultry – and opens new potential to extend animal health progress into the human health arena.

“For the livestock sector, a prime example of a platform technology is VIDO’s work in developing mucosal delivery systems for vaccines,” says Dr. Andrew Potter, Associate Director – Research. “As producers and industry know, traditional vaccines injected by needle require management-intensive animal handling and can cause injection site lesions, which reduce meat quality.

“A platform technology, such as a mucosal ‘vaccine vector,’ that can carry vaccines to the target area of an animal, would make vaccination more viable and would be applicable to several species,” he continues.

An even broader example is the area of neonatal immunization, says Potter. The neonatal, or immediate ‘post-birth’ stage of development is a vulnerable time for newborn animals and humans, as they encounter hundreds of pathogens for the first time. Traditional vaccination at this stage is complicated by several factors, including the potential interference of antibodies the neonate has recently received from the mother.

VIDO scientists are working on platform technologies that target immunity in the lining of the lungs and intestines, which are believed to escape this interference, he says. “This may open broad potential for neonatal vaccination in many species.”

The bottom line is that platform technology development will give VIDO’s research broader impact than ever before, benefiting everyone from livestock producers and industry to society in general, says Babiuk. “It will bring powerful benefits to a broader audience, and reinforce VIDO’s long-term position as a global leader in infectious disease research.”

VIDO’s research includes work in molecular biology, chemistry, clinical research, pathogenesis and vaccine delivery technology. In a time of increased international concern with biosecurity and food safety issues, VIDO has secured a principal position combining this basic science with innovative technology.

A more in-depth overview of platform technologies is available in the VIDO Report on the VIDO Web site at

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.