VIDO awarded >$1million to develop innovative solutions for Saskatchewan’s agriculture industry

Jan 23, 2024

Today, three VIDO scientists were awarded >$1 million in total from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture’s Agriculture Development Fund (ADF). This fund supports the development of solutions to emerging problems of the Saskatchewan agriculture industry.

VIDO funded projects include:

Development of an efficacious Histophilus somni subunit vaccine for beef cattle

Histophilosis is an infectious disease in beef cattle caused by the bacteria Histophilus somni. Histophilosis can be hard to diagnose in a live animal and can cause acute and chronic bronchopneumonia, laryngitis, pleuritis, myocarditis and pericarditis, with mortality rates up to 1%.

To protect cattle, Dr. Jose Perez-Casal’s team is developing a subunit vaccine using strains of Histophilus somni isolated from healthy cattle and fatal cases. This project is co-funded by the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association.

Development of a customized RNA vaccine platform for rapid response to animal disease outbreaks

Avian Influenza or “bird flu” is caused by avian influenza A viruses and can spread easily and quickly in birds. There is currently no treatment for infected birds and outbreaks have led to mass culling which has devastated the farming industries in many areas of the world.

A team led by Dr. Aneesh Thakur will develop an inhalable vaccine using a customized amplifying RNA vaccine platform to protect poultry against avian influenza. This research will support the global efforts to vaccinate poultry against avian influenza to improve food security.

Bioengineered yeast to provide antimicrobial peptides and functional amino acids to preserve and improve gut health in piglets

Post-weaning stress has traditionally been mitigated with antimicrobials including antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is an increasing issue globally and cost-effective alternatives are needed to keep animals healthy.

To protect pigs, Dr. Heather Wilson’s team, alongside Dr. John Husnik of Renaissance BioScience Corp., will use bioengineering to develop yeast capable of delivering antimicrobial peptides, zinc and essential amino acids, to the gut. They will also study the effect of supplementing feed with the yeast strain on pig growth, intestinal health, and protection against Salmonella.

Oral vaccine for pigs against major viral diseases

Infectious diseases can significantly impact the health of pigs and negatively impact the profitability of the barn and industry. Dr. Heather Wilson’s team, along with Dr. John Husnik of Renaissance BioScience Corp., was also granted funds to bioengineer yeast to use as an oral vaccine against porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus. The yeasts will be absorbed by the pig immune systems as a ‘nanoparticle-like oral vaccine’. This approach could improve the ease of vaccine delivery to livestock.

To read more about the ADF announcement, visit: USask and the Government of Saskatchewan

To read more about the Dr. Wilson's collabroation, visit Renaissance BioScience Corp.