VIDO launches $2-million project with India to develop tools for improved food safety

Jun 15, 2008

The University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) is a key partner in a $2-million Canada-India initiative to improve food safety through the application of biotechnology in developing an innovative device for rapidly diagnosing disease in cattle.

“With this project, we have the opportunity to apply VIDO’s expertise in large animal models and in immune-response technology to empower rural farmers in India.” said VIDO director Dr. Andrew Potter. “This technology could be life-changing in a country where owning a cow can lift a family from poverty.”

The project aims to apply “lateral flow technology” -- the same technology used in over-the-counter pregnancy tests -- to develop a simple device for diagnosing diseases such as respiratory disease and mastitis. The device is expected to be commercially available in about two years.

Currently, diagnostic techniques are slow and expensive. By enabling farmers and feedlot operators to rapidly and cost-effectively identify infected animals, treatment will occur earlier and be more effective. This will increase the overall health of the herd and save billions of dollars lost to livestock diseases annually. Bovine respiratory disease causes more than half of feedlot deaths, while annual losses due to mastitis run up to $300 million in Canada alone.

“We look forward to the significant research and commercialization that this unique public-private partnership with India will bring,” said U of S Vice-President Research Steven Franklin, noting the U of S has identified India as a strategic priority for research and development.

The project is one of 10 across Canada announced today by the governments of Canada and India as part of the Canada-India Agreement for Scientific and Technological Co-operation. Each project will involve corporate and academic research partners in both countries. The total funding from all sources in the joint initiatives will be $17 million.

VIDO will receive $600,000 from the International Science and Technology Partnerships Canada (ISTPCanada), an arm’s length, non-profit organization. Similarly, the Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation (BAIF) Development Research Foundation in Pune, India will receive funding from India’s Global Innovation & Technology Alliance.

Other funding partners in the VIDO-BAIF project include Safeguard Biosystems of Toronto which holds patents on lateral flow devices, and Vetnex Livestock and Canine Business, the animal health unit of RFCL Ltd. of New Delhi.

The project will be jointly led by VIDO director Dr. Andrew Potter and BAIF President Dr. Narayan Hegde. A management committee will incorporate representatives of VIDO, Safeguard, BAIF and Vetnex.

The new technology is expected to dramatically reduce the amount of time before results become available, greatly simplify the training required to conduct tests, and decrease the cost of the diagnostics and need for extensive supporting facilities and equipment.

It is hoped the partnership will eventually lead to diagnostics for economically important diseases in other agricultural species.

Earlier this year, U of S Vice-President Franklin led a senior delegation to India to fortify U of S research partnerships. Efforts undertaken in India over the past two years have focused on areas where U of S has considerable expertise, including human and animal health, engineering and biotechnology.

The University of Saskatchewan’s VIDO protects humans and animals from infectious disease through bold advances in vaccination and immunity-enhancing technologies. VIDO offers interdisciplinary training opportunities for students and postgraduates and is leading construction of the International Vaccine Centre (InterVac), the largest Containment Level 3 vaccine research centre in Canada. VIDO has achieved five world firsts and operates with the support of the provincial governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta, the Government of Canada, charitable foundations and competitive

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