In less than a year, University of Saskatchewan scientists have developed and tested a prototype vaccine that could protect the North American swine industry from a virus that has killed more than eight million pigs and cost more than $400 million in lost income since 2013.
The porcine epidemic diarrhea virus hit the United States in 2013 and spread to Canada in 2014. It was first discovered in Europe, and has become increasingly problematic in Asian countries. Occurring only in pigs, PEDV can kill up to 100% of infected piglets. PEDV is a coronavirus, a virus group which includes important emerging human diseases such as SARS and MERS.
Using its new containment Level 3 facility, the U of S Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre quickly launched a vaccine development project.
“Our new facility, InterVac, provided us with the containment infrastructure to develop a vaccine and demonstrate it protected up to 100% of the piglets,” says Volker Gerdts, VIDO-InterVac’s research director.
The successful vaccine results triggered the interest of several animal health companies including Huvepharma, which has partnered with VIDO-InterVac to develop the technology for commercial production in North America.
“This is an exciting partnership with a world-class organization,” says Boris Gavrilov, senior scientist for biologics development at Huvepharma. “Our goal is to have the vaccine available for commercial use as soon as possible to help stop producer losses.”
With the support of the swine industry, the vaccine is now undergoing field testing in Saskatchewan, as well as in Manitoba where it is being used to help protect piglets from a recent PEDV outbreak.
“This is great news for the swine industry both in Canada and globally, as PEDV continues to threaten unaffected regions and impact areas where it is already present,” says Sask Pork general manager Neil Ketilson. “Our industry would like to acknowledge Dr. Gerdts and the VIDO-InterVac team for their outstanding contribution to swine health with the development of this vaccine.”
VIDO-InterVac director Andrew Potter says, “This is a perfect example of why InterVac was constructed — it is one of the only facilities available internationally with the capacity to conduct vaccine development and testing on this scale for emerging infectious diseases. It helps Canada remain prepared to quickly respond to outbreaks like this.”
The PEDV vaccine development project has been supported by a variety of funders including the Government of Saskatchewan Agriculture Development Fund, Sask Pork and the Canadian Swine Health Network.
A research organization of the University of Saskatchewan, VIDO-InterVac has four decades of experience working with public and private partners to research and protect humans and animals from infectious disease. VIDO-InterVac receives financial support from a variety of sources including the Government of Canada, Government of Saskatchewan, foundations, producer groups and corporations.