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Cattle’s best bet against disease

News Roundup from the December 2015 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

A new research project funded by Genome British Columbia (Genome BC), Genome Canada and other partners is using ‘reverse vaccinology’ to develop vaccines for Johne’s disease and bovine tuberculosis in cattle. These diseases result in annual losses of more than $86 million and $10 million, respectively, in Canada and billions annually worldwide.

Led by the University of British Columbia’s Dr. Bob Hancock and the University of Saskatchewan’s Dr. Andrew Potter with $7.3 million in funding, the pair anticipates they will be ready to start field testing vaccines within the project’s four-year time frame.

“The process of reverse vaccinology provides a much more efficient and effective method of developing vaccines, through the parallel identification and expression of every possible antigen, while simultaneously screening for vaccine potential,” says Hancock, a professor with the department of microbiology and immunology at UBC.

Given the nature of this work the team will also investigate the public’s perception of this technique, the current regulatory framework and industry’s readiness to turn these vaccines into commercial products.

The aim is to end up with two new vaccines for important livestock diseases, plus companion diagnostics to differentiate vaccinated from infected animals, and a white paper for public discussion on the options and strategies for dealing with these important cattle diseases.

Genome BC’s earlier investment enabled the team to produce antigens, demonstrating that reverse vaccinology works, says Dr. Alan Winter, president and CEO of Genome British Columbia.

The vaccines developed through this pro­ject will benefit dairy and beef cattle farmers, the public who utilize their products and the commercial sector, both in terms of marketable vaccines, increased food and dairy product output, and international trade.

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