The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate awarded Harrisvaccines a $1.114 million contract to develop an RNA Particle vaccine to potentially protect the United States from foot-and-mouth disease.
FMD is caused by the FMD virus, which produces blisters in the mouth and feet of cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle and swine. The U.S. has been FMDV-free since 1929.
According to a 2011 report by Iowa State University's Center for Food Security and Public health, "FMD is considered by many to be the most economically devastating livestock disease in the world: it is highly transmissible; results in economic losses in animal production; and depopulation, the most effective means of control, would cost producers and the governments millions or even billions of dollars."
Harrisvaccines will use the contract over the next 34 months to develop an RNA Particle vaccine against FMDV. The company's unique technology allows for the vaccine to be manufactured without handling the virus; only a gene sequence from the virus is needed to prepare the vaccine. This characteristic allows the RP-based FMDV vaccine to be produced in Harrisvaccines' USDA-licensed production facility in Ames, Iowa. Production of FMDV vaccines using traditional methods in the U.S. is not allowed due to the significant risk of releasing the virus into FMD-free U.S. during production.
"We are very excited for the opportunity to use our RNA Particle vaccine technology in a project this significant to U.S. agriculture," says Dr. Kurt Kamrud, vice president of research and chief scientific officer for Harrisvaccines.
"Our rapid response technology allows us to produce large amounts of vaccine quickly. And, because only a portion of the FMDV genetic information is required to generate a vaccine, the RP-based approach will allow for the differentiation of infected from vaccinated animals when used with current and next generation FMD serology-based diagnostic assays, which is very important in the event of an outbreak," Kamrud added.