By Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) Staff
In under two years, the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) scientists 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 (PEDv) 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 per cent of infected piglets and survives well in the environment, making it a significant threat to the swine industry. PEDv is a coronavirus, a virus group, which includes important emerging human diseases such as SARS and MERS.
In the fall of 2013, VIDO-InterVac quickly launched a vaccine development project. A team of scientists, technicians and veterinarians, led by Dr. Volker Gerdts, established the infection in piglets and tested several vaccine prototypes using VIDO-InterVac’s high containment facility – a world-class facility built with financial support from the Government of Canada, Government of Saskatchewan and City of Saskatoon. The most promising candidate was found to protect more than 95 per cent of piglets.
“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,” said VIDO-InterVac director Andrew Potter.
With support from the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board (SaskPork), the Canadian Swine Health Alliance and the Government of Saskatchewan Agriculture Development Fund (ADF), a Growing Forward 2 program, the vaccine candidate was tested in three commercial units in Saskatchewan and subsequently licensed to Huvepharma, a human and animal health company out of Europe, which plans to develop the technology for commercial production in North America.
The vaccine has also received two awards: SaskPork’s Award of Distinction for Research Innovation, and Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority’s Science, Technology, Innovation and Collaboration Project Award.