Development of a cross-protective synthetic RNA vaccine against foot and mouth disease (FMD)
Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is the most contagious viral disease of cloven-hoofed animals and poses a substantial economic risk to the agricultural sector in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). FMD is endemic in many parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Although a disease of low mortality, the impact of FMD is significant due to the huge numbers of animals affected and the fact that endemic FMD countries are not allowed to export their animal products. It is estimated that FMD in LMICs is responsible for losses of up to US$8.8 million every year.
The most cost-effective method for preventing and controlling FMD is vaccination. Current vaccines against FMD are killed viruses, which involve a number of drawbacks, including: poor stability that compromises production and field potency; poor immunogenicity (the ability to confer immunity) and incomplete protection requiring frequent boosters; and high antigenic variability (the ability to evade a host immune response), causing difficulty in matching the antigenic profiles of vaccine and field-strain viruses.
To overcome these challenges, this project will use a novel nanoparticle approach to design and produce a synthetic thermostable RNA vaccine with the capacity to protect livestock against multiple FMD strains. The platform relies on chemical and enzymatic synthesis reactions that are easily scaled for final production, and that eliminate the need for infectious virus or cell culture intermediates. The technology is capable of delivering self-replicating mRNAs in nanoparticles to host cells upon intramuscular injection. In addition, the antigenic FMD virus VP1 capsid antigen will be expressed along with the warning signals that typically accompany viral infection, making this a potent and highly effective vaccine.
This project is a collaboration between Tiba Biotechnology (Boston, USA), Moredun Research Institute (Edinburgh, UK), and Agricultural Research Council-Ondestepoort Veterinary Institute (Pretoria, South Africa). It is funded through the Livestock Vaccine Innovation Fund (LVIF), a partnership between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Global Affairs Canada, and IDRC. It represents a joint investment of CA$57 million over five years to support the development, production, and commercialization of innovative vaccines against priority livestock diseases in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.