Zoetis has signed an agreement with Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center for Innovation in Advanced Development & Manufacturing (CIADM) to establish a facility for accelerating the development of transboundary and emerging disease vaccines, including those for foot and mouth disease (FMD) -- a virus that can cause serious illness in cattle, pigs and sheep.
Working side by side with Zoetis scientists, CIADM staff will collaborate in the development of processes, assays and formulations used to produce new vaccines, Zoetis said.
As part of the agreement, Zoetis is setting up a 12,800 sq. ft. secure biocontainment lab off campus utilizing modular cleanroom technology. The Transboundary & Emerging Disease Vaccine Development Facility is expected to be operational mid-2020, pending approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to receive strains of the Zoetis FMD vaccine platform that are non-infectious to cattle and other livestock and, therefore, cannot cause the disease, Zoetis said.
While FMD vaccines will be the initial focus of the center’s vaccine development, the facility can be expanded to accommodate vaccine development for other emerging diseases in the future, the company noted.
“We are proud to be working with Texas A&M in the development of this critical vaccine to protect the health of livestock in the U.S. and markets around the world. FMD is one of the most serious diseases for livestock owners, and through an innovative vaccine platform, we can help them reduce the risk of an outbreak and avoid significant economic losses,” said Dr. John Hardham, research director in global biologics research and director of the Zoetis Center for Transboundary & Emerging Diseases. “By combining our internal innovation efforts with world-class research institutions such as Texas A&M, Zoetis is in the best position to bring veterinarians and livestock producers solutions to better predict, prevent, detect and treat disease in the animals under their care.”
Texas A&M University System chancellor John Sharp added, “The Texas A&M System is uniquely qualified to be on the front lines of protecting animal health care. By protecting animals, we are also protecting human health, our food supply and our economy.”
“I am pleased that Zoetis decided to establish a collaborative effort with CIADM to develop critical animal vaccines. Our combined efforts to bring critical foot and mouth vaccines to the veterinarian market utilizing the novel Zoetis platform will be of significant benefit to both Texas and livestock communities around the world,” CIADM chief manufacturing officer Dr. William Jay Treat said. “It is an outstanding entrepreneurial opportunity for the A&M Health Science Center to play a key role in Zoetis’s vaccine efforts.”
As part of establishing the new facility, the CIADM program expects initially to hire up to eight staff scientists in College Station, Texas, by the first quarter of 2020.
While FMD is not harmful to people, livestock animals worldwide are highly susceptible to FMD viruses. An unchecked spread of FMD could result in an economic impact of billions of dollars in the first year, devastate international livestock trade and severely affect the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers, Zoetis noted.
In April 2018, as a first step toward FMD vaccine development for the U.S., USDA granted Zoetis a select agent exclusion authorizing the company to develop vaccines using a modified, non-infectious FMD-LL3B3D vaccine platform in the U.S., the company explained.
Through its collaboration with Texas A&M, Zoetis said it is now moving forward to safely develop an FMD vaccine that is not infectious and cannot be transmitted among livestock in the U.S. With this vaccine platform, regulatory authorities and veterinarians may be able to distinguish between animals that have been vaccinated and those with natural FMD virus infection, which would help protect export markets for U.S.-raised meat., the company added.
Full-scale manufacture of FMD-LL3B3D-based vaccines is being considered but is not currently authorized in the U.S., Zoetis said.
The Transboundary & Emerging Disease Vaccine Facility in Texas will be part of the Center for Transboundary & Emerging Diseases within Zoetis, which helps governments prepare for and protect against the threat of outbreaks of devastating diseases in animal health, the announcement said.
As infectious diseases are occurring with greater frequency and geographic impact, the center serves as a virtual hub that brings together Zoetis's capabilities in surveillance and alliances with animal health centers of excellence worldwide, such as Texas A&M, along with expertise in vaccine development, regulatory affairs and flexible manufacturing capacity to effectively prevent and control infectious disease outbreaks.
Building on more than 65 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines, vaccines and diagnostic products that are complemented by biodevices, genetic tests and a range of services. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2018, the company generated revenue of $5.8 billion and had approximately 10,000 employees.