Research grant to develop vaccine for mastitis in cows

Mastitis costs the UK dairy industry £200 million a year through reduced milk production and quality. Now a University of Plymouth spinout company has been awarded a grant to support development of a vaccine to combat one of its main causes, E.coli. 

The Vaccine Group (TVG) – which was co-founded by Dr Michael Jarvis from the University’s Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine (ITSMed) in collaboration with commercialisation partner Frontier IP – will use the £50,000 grant from the global Bacterial Vaccine Network to run a proof-of-concept study. 

The study will investigate whether TVG’s novel platform technology can produce a safe-to-use vaccine that is cheaper and more effective than those currently available to farmers. E.coli is one of three main bacteria that causes bovine mastitis – the inflammation of the mammary gland and udder tissue. 

As well as being a significant financial issue, the disease is also a serious problem in low and middle-income countries which rely on milk as a staple food source. An effective vaccine would remove the need for farmers to use antibiotics and cut the risk of the bacteria developing antibiotic resistance. 

TVG’s novel technology is based on safe forms of herpesviruses, which occur in nearly all animals, including humans. The vaccine is created by modifying these benign viruses by inserting regions of the pathogen being targeted to stimulate immune responses against the disease. Other potential applications include vaccines to fight diseases that jump from animals to humans, such as Ebola, SARS,and Marburg viruses, swine and bird flu. 

The technology is being developed by Dr Jarvis and his team, who are working in collaboration with a global network of leading academics and institutions. Professor Alain Vanderplasschen of the Department of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases at the University of Liège, Belgium, is the main collaborator on the E.coli vaccine project. 

Dr Jarvis, Associate Professor in Virology and Immunology in the School of Biomedical and Healthcare Sciences, said: 

“Networks such as BactiVac are critical in bringing together the necessary multidisciplinary expertise required to answer society’s problems. The current project is using a vaccine against bacteria as means to control bacterial infections, but without antibiotics and associated antibiotic microbial resistance (AMR) concerns.”

Frontier IP Group Chief Executive Officer Neil Crabb said: 

“This award from a world-leading vaccinology network provides strong validation of the novel technology being developed by The Vaccine Group and its potential. We’re delighted and look forward to the results of the proof-of-concept study and the opportunities they might provide for longer-term commercialisation.” 

BactiVac, based at the University of Birmingham, is a new global bacterial vaccinology network designed to bring together academia, industry and policy areas to accelerate vaccine development for use in low and middle-income countries. It provides funding for catalyst projects and training to promote multidisciplinary interactive networks. 

This work is supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund Networks in Vaccines Research and Development, which is co-funded by the Medical Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council.

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