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Mazen Animal Health reports breakthrough in valley fever vaccine development

First sub-unit vaccine for valley fever addresses unmet need in animal health.

Mazen Animal Health, a developer of novel maize-based vaccines and therapeutics in animal health, announced a breakthrough in the development of a first-ever valley fever sub-unit vaccine for companion animals.

In mice, the vaccine was found to reduce the burden of Coccidioides, the fungus that can cause valley fever.

According to The Merck Veterinary Manual, valley fever (coccidioidomycosis) is a dust-borne, non-contagious chronic respiratory disease caused by the fungus Coccidioides immitis.

There is currently no vaccine for valley fever, in part because the antigen is poorly expressed in microbial systems, leading to a high cost of production, Mazen said. With funding from the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, Mazen's technology partner, Applied Biotechnology Institute (ABI), has produced a sub-unit vaccine candidate in maize grain at levels that are a hundred-fold higher than what is possible with traditional fermentation.

Maize-produced antigen allows for both injectable and chewable formats for vaccination, and sub-unit vaccines are considered one of the safest approaches to vaccines, the company said.

Valley fever is a fungal infection that leads to disease not only in humans but also dogs and other species such as ruminants, horses, swine and camelids like llamas and alpacas. With 12 million dogs in the southwestern U.S. and an increasing population of camelids at risk, cases of valley fever are increasing and can be very costly, Mazen said.

The disease can last years and is currently treated with expensive antifungal medications. It can cause severe lung, spleen and bone infection, often leading to death.

"We are thrilled with the early animal model results showing that the vaccine reduced fungal burden in mice, followed by our successful challenge study in mice with this patent-pending product," said Dr. Jenny Filbey, chief executive officer of Mazen Animal Health. "A valley fever vaccine is a great fit with Mazen's focus on addressing unmet needs in animal health."

Mazen Animal Health is a biotechnology company developing and commercializing novel biological vaccines and therapeutics that disrupt the status quo. Building on more than 20 years of research and development, its vaccine production platform enables edible vaccines that can be delivered with feed.

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