Pirbright research to make vaccines more accessible
Livestock vaccines may soon be more accessible and affordable thanks to funding from the Livestock Vaccine Innovation Fund.
The funding has been awarded to the Pirbright Research Institute to allow previous immune response research to continue. The research will involve using gene-editing technology to remove chiFITM proteins in chicken cells - one of the major barriers to viral replication - and could boost vaccine yields by up to tenfold.
Dr Mark Fife from Pirbright's Genetics and Genomics Group, which is leading the research, explains: “Many vaccines for both animal and human, are produced by going a weakened form of the virus in chicken eggs or cells, which are then extracted for use.
“Although chiFITM may help protect chickens from viral infection, the protein actually hinders vaccine productions, as it prevents the weakened virus from replicating at high levels and reduces the amount of vaccine that can be made.
"Our new research will involve using a gene-editing system called CRISPR/Cas9 to remove the chIFITM genes in chicken cells, therefore overcoming one of the barriers for viral replication, and boosting the levels of vaccine virus produced.”
This boost to vaccine production will make vaccines cheaper to produce and more accessible to livestock owners in developing nations. The scientists will first focus on increasing flu vaccine yields, but the method could also be applied to multiple livestock diseases and potentially human diseases too.
When the researchers have piloted the technique, they will work with commercial partners Horizon Discovery Group plc to bring this new technology to market. It is hoped the technology will commercially available as soon as 2021.