North America expands veterinary biodefense network with VIDO

Facility only Canadian non-government facility authorized to work with the foreign animal disease African swine fever.

February 16, 2023

2 Min Read

The University of Saskatchewan's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization has been unanimously accepted as the first and only international organization in the Research Alliance for Veterinary Science and Biodefense BSL-3 Network, a partnership of 18 United States-based large biocontainment facilities focused on veterinary infectious diseases.

VIDO is the largest and most advanced Biosafety Level 3 Agriculture facility in Canada and the only Canadian non-government facility authorized to work with the foreign animal disease African swine fever.

"Canada and the United States share the world's longest undefended border, and our wildlife and livestock face similar threats," said VIDO Director and CEO Volker Gerdts. "By participating in RAV3N we strengthen our collective preparedness for emerging infectious diseases."

The research network, headquartered at the Texas A&M University's Global Health Research Complex, was established in 2020. RAV3N enables strategic and co-ordinated approaches for large-animal biocontainment infrastructure and science capacity to improve bio-surveillance, diagnostics, and countermeasure developments against high-consequence pathogens of veterinary importance.

High-consequence veterinary pathogens are viruses and bacteria that have epidemic potential and lack effective vaccines or therapeutics. Examples include the ASF virus, bovine tuberculosis, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and avian influenza—some of which are also zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted between animals and humans.

"By expanding our partnership to include VIDO as an affiliate member we have taken steps improve North America's ability to protect our animals," GHRC Executive Director Kurt Zuelke said. "Infectious diseases don't obey borders and having VIDO in our network is a positive step to protecting the U.S. from threats."

The announcement was made public during VIDO's board meeting in Texas, hosted by GHRC. Gerald W. Parker, associate dean for Global One Health at Texas A&M, is a member of VIDO's board of directors. During the visit, the groups are also identifying additional potential collaborative opportunities.

In the near future, Zuelke said GHRC plans to host a series of high-level meetings to explore opportunities for VIDO and USask to partner with colleges, schools and agencies within the Texas A&M research enterprise, which posted $1.153 billion in total research expenditures in its most recent fiscal year (2022).

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