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High-priority animal disease research funded

Three Kansas State projects receive nearly $1 million to tackle foot and mouth disease and African swine fever.

High-priority diseases in cattle and swine will be tackled by three researchers in the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine thanks to grants totaling nearly $1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

Jürgen Richt, Regents distinguished professor and director of the Center of Excellence for Emerging & Zoonotic Animal Diseases, received a $150,000 ARS grant for "Evaluation of Novel Foot & Mouth Disease Virus Vaccine Candidates with Broad Breadth of Protection — Phase II."

Mike Sanderson, professor of epidemiology and associate director of the Center for Outcomes Research & Epidemiology, received a $176,900 grant for "Simulation Modeling of Foot & Mouth Disease Outbreaks in Livestock in the U.S."

Jishu Shi, professor of vaccine immunology, received a $640,720 grant for the project "Actions Supporting the Development of an African Swine Fever Virus Live Attenuated DIVA Vaccine."

Kansas State said Sanderson's and Richt's projects both focus on foot and mouth disease (FMD), which affects livestock production in many regions of the world, including much of Asia and Africa.

"Foot and mouth disease is a high-priority transboundary disease that would severely impair livestock health and production if introduced to the U.S.," Sanderson said. "The goal of this research is to model outbreak and control scenarios in the U.S. to improve preparedness and identify optimal disease response strategies to mitigate the impacts of a potential foot and mouth disease outbreak."

Because the FMD virus is antigenically diverse, Richt said vaccines must be matched to target certain viral isolates to be effective.

"The objective of this research project is to support the development of novel foot and mouth disease virus vaccine candidates and determine their immunogenicity in its natural host," Richt said. "It will also help generate new knowledge on next-generation vaccines for this virus, with broader activity that will ultimately help to prevent and control foot and mouth disease."

Shi's research is centered on the development of control strategies against African swine fever virus, a threatening swine disease that has become a major issue in China and other Asian countries as well as in Eastern Europe.

"The collaboration with USDA ARS is a valuable partnership for us in African swine fever vaccine research and highlights the importance of the Kansas State Biosecurity Research Institute as a key facility for Kansas State researchers working on high-consequence animal diseases," Shi said. "It will strengthen our capability in research that will be related to the National Bio & Agro-defense Facility (NBAF) and provide new impetus for our long-standing partnership with USDA ARS research scientists."

The Biosecurity Research Institute is a Biosafety Level 3 and Biosafety Level 3-agriculture research facility that allows for the study of high-consequence pathogens affecting plants, animals and food products, including zoonotic pathogens that infect humans. NBAF will be the nation's foremost animal disease research facility and is being built by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security adjacent to Kansas State's campus in Manhattan, Kan.

The two objectives of Shi's project are the development of tests for accompanying differentiation of infected from vaccinated animals (DIVA) for the African swine fever virus live attenuated DIVA candidate developed by ARS and the development of a stable cell line supporting the replication of those vaccine candidates.

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