UBC microbiologists to use ‘reverse vaccinology’ to combat Johne's disease, bovine TB

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Johne's disease and bovine TB result in annual losses of $100 million in Canada.

A new $7 million research project led by UBC and University of Saskatchewan microbiologists will use 'reverse vaccinology' in an attempt to develop vaccines for Johne's disease and bovine tuberculosis in cattle. The diseases result in annual losses of $100 million in Canada and billions annually worldwide.

Infectious diseases continue to be a leading cause of sickness and death in livestock and can be transferred to humans. Vaccination is the most cost-effective means of preventing infectious disease in animals and humans, but its application to livestock is still limited and the lack of effective vaccines contributes to the excessive use of antibiotics in animal health.

"The process of reverse vaccinology provides a much more efficient and effective method of developing vaccines, through the parallel identification and expression of every possible antigen, while simultaneously screening for vaccine potential," says UBC microbiologist Bob Hancock.

"Another key facet of the project is investigating public perceptions and industrial readiness, the commercialization strategies and regulatory framework and support systems.”

The Genome British Columbia and Genome Canada funded project, led by Hancock and Saskatchewan's Andrew Potter, plans to start field testing within four-years.

"Genome BC's earlier investment into this project through our Strategic Opportunities Fund enabled the team to take a first step -- producing antigens -- that demonstrated that their reverse vaccinology approach would work," says Alan Winter, president and CEO of Genome British Columbia.

“It's gratifying to have both regional and federal investment into this important research because it will make a difference in ensuring a safe and healthy food supply for future generations."

The vaccines developed through this project will benefit dairy and beef cattle farmers, the public who utilize their products and the commercial sector, both in terms of marketable vaccines, increased food and dairy product output, and international trade. Direct economic losses to livestock producers are large, but these are dwarfed by the losses associated with international trade restrictions as has been seen in Canada with mad cow disease, avian influenza and other diseases.

The project was funded through Genome Canada's 2014 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition: Genomics and Feeding the Future. Other funding partners include the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), the University of Saskatchewan's Office of the Vice-President Research, and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute.

Another key facet of the project is investigating public perceptions and industrial readiness, the commercialization strategies and regulatory framework and support systems.

Chris Balma
c 604-202-5047