Researchers to Improve Foot and Mouth Vaccines with £1.5 Million Funding Boost

UK - Researchers at The Pirbright Institute have secured almost $1.5 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fund the development of improved foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccines for East Africa.
calendar icon 24 November 2016
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The project, headed by Dr Bryan Charleston, Interim Director and CEO of the Institute will combine the expertise of Pirbright scientists Dr Julian Seago and Dr Eva Perez. Selection of new vaccine strains will incorporate the use of simple tests they have developed for assessing virus stability.

The effectiveness of FMD vaccine can be influenced by many different factors, such as the route of vaccination, the dose and the quality of antigens in the host (or molecules able to induce an immune response).

To assess the quality of these new vaccine candidates and the amount of antigen present, two different tests have been developed by Pirbright researchers. The first, called thermofluor, uses a slow increase in temperature to assess the stability of the virus, using a dye sensitive to the presence of nucleic acid (released in the presence of DNA or RNA when a virus disassociates).

The second ELISA-based test (a common laboratory test for detecting antibodies in the blood), uses llama antibodies derived from llamas immunized against FMDV.

Dr Seago said: “In combination, these two techniques complement each other and have the potential to enable the quality control of FMDV vaccines, both during and after the production process, as well as helping to determine the most suitable storage conditions for the vaccine.

“Crucially both tests are user-friendly and can be quickly performed with minimal training using standard laboratory equipment. If our project is successful, it has the potential to significantly expedite the production and supply of vaccine and the approach has generated significant interest within the scientific community that studies FMDV”, he said.

The project will develop closer links with FMD vaccine companies in East Africa, with the intention of transferring the technology for future application.

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