A £2,359,553 grant has been awarded by Innovate UK to The Pirbright Institute’s Dr Simon Graham to lead an international team developing an inexpensive, safe and effective vaccine to protect pigs against Nipah virus (NiV).
The grant will allow scientists from Pirbright and partners in the UK, Australia, Malaysia and India to develop a prototype vaccine that will aid the control of NiV outbreaks. As well as minimising impact on the pig industry, the successful candidate will prevent virus transmission and therefore lower the risk to public health.
NiV is usually found in Old World fruit bats, but infection in pigs increases the ability for the virus to transmit to humans and cause severe, often fatal, neurological disease. In the late nineties, pig-to-human transmission created the first and most devastating NiV outbreaks in Malaysia and Singapore, causing over 100 human fatalities. This resulted in the culling of 45% of Malaysia’s pig population, costing the economy over US$650 million and losing 36,000 jobs.
Malaysian pig farming is still restricted to “designated pig farming areas”, with pig husbandry activities being discouraged elsewhere. Decreasing the major risk NiV poses to the developing pig industries, as well as to the livelihoods of poor livestock keepers in low and middle income countries of Southeast Asia is a key aim of the research.
The team hope the vaccine will provide a tool for the monitoring, control and elimination of the disease by enabling differentiation of vaccinated and infected animals. Engagement with affected countries is a vital part of the vaccine research, and the successful vaccine candidate will be trialled in NiV endemic regions of both Malaysia and India.
Dr Simon Graham, leader of the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Immunology group at Pirbright, said: “The region at risk of NiV has some of the highest pig population densities found anywhere in the world, which are rising fast due to the demand of a growing human population. This increases the risk of NiV transmission to pigs and humans, which is why this work to generate effective vaccines is currently so important.
“The grant will help us build upon existing research and produce a vaccine that will give at-risk countries an alternative option to culling vast numbers of susceptible pigs during outbreaks. In addition to the welfare and economic advantages of vaccinating, this work will also provide a solid basis for further evaluating the vaccine for protection of humans against NiV infection.”
The project ‘A Nipah vaccine to eliminate porcine reservoirs and safeguard human health’ was funded by the Innovate UK SBRI Vaccines for Global Epidemics – Clinical competition. The project partners are Dr Simon Graham, Dr Dalan Bailey and Dr Elma Tchilian, The Pirbright Institute, UK; Dr Teresa Lambe and Prof Sarah Gilbert, Jenner Institute, University of Oxford, UK; Dr Glenn Marsh, CSIRO Health and Biosecurity, Australia; Prof Paul Young, Dr Keith Chappell and Dr Daniel Watterson University of Queensland, Australia; Dr Li-Yen Chang, University of Malaya, Malaysia; Dr Sharifah Syed Hassan, Monash University, Malaysia; Dr Ooi Peck Toung, University Putra, Malaysia; Prof Nagendra Nath Barman, Assam Agricultural University, India; and Dr Rüdiger Raue, Zoetis.
About The Pirbright Institute
The Pirbright Institute is a world leading centre of excellence in research and surveillance of virus diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans. Based in the UK and receiving strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Institute works to enhance capability to contain, control and eliminate these economically and medically important diseases through highly innovative fundamental and applied bioscience.
With an annual income of nearly £26.1 million from grants and commercial activity, and a total of £5 million strategic investment from BBSRC during 2016-2017, the Institute contributes to global food security and health, improving quality of life for animals and people.
For more information about The Pirbright Institute see: www.pirbright.ac.uk
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by Government, BBSRC invested £473 million in world leading bioscience, people and research infrastructure in 2015-16. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk
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