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Livestock vaccine the target of new collaboration


Calgary AB December 23, 2003 Plant biotechnology company Dow AgroSciences Canada says it has signed a research and licensing agreement with the University of Guelph to develop a new vaccine to prevent a major flu-like disease in cattle. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Researchers at the University of Guelph have already been developing plant-made antigens that have shown effectiveness against Mannheimia haemolytica, a serious respiratory pathogen that can infect entire herds of cattle. The disease makes infected animals very ill and can be fatal. The disease is a major global concern to the livestock industry because infection is costly to treat and leads to decreased productivity.

The university, with support from Dow AgroSciences Canada, hopes to develop the protein-based vaccine further, through delivery in multiple plant systems. Developing an oral vaccine for cattle has proven difficult because of cattle’s unique digestive system. Cattle’s four stomachs break down therapeutic proteins before they can be absorbed through the intestines.

Dr Patricia Shewen, professor of immunology, says university researchers have shown experimentally that proteins expressed in cattle’s forage can be presented to the immune system.

“We see this collaboration with the University of Guelph as an excellent opportunity to extend our technology platform with a project that will benefit the cattle industry,” says Butch Mercer, global business leader, animal health and nutrition for Dow AgroSciences. “Furthermore, we see this as an opportunity to collaborate with the world’s best in this scientific field.”

Three departments at the university are involved in the research pathobiology, microbiology and plant agriculture. In addition to financial support, Dow AgroSciences also brings intellectual property, molecular biology expertise and other assets that will facilitate delivery and expression of the proteins in plants.

“This project brings together people with diverse expertise,” says Dr Shewen. “If we can succeed, this will revolutionize how we vaccinate cattle.”