The Pirbright Institute in the U.K. has entered into a exclusive worldwide partnership with ECO Animal Health Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of ECO Animal Health Group PLC, on two new projects to combat significant diseases of poultry, according to an announcement.
The goal of the first project, led by professor Venugopal Nair, is the development of a novel vaccine for use in chickens. The project will use a Marek’s disease virus (MDV) vaccine to protect against multiple economically important poultry viruses — such as infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV), Newcastle disease virus (NDV) and infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV) — using innovative technologies developed at Pirbright.
This combined (recombinant) vaccine will have the potential of inducing simultaneous protection against Marek’s disease as well as the other major diseases caused by IBDV, NDV and ILTV, Pirbright said in its announcement. As such, it would represent a major advance in controlling diseases that threaten avian health and sustainable poultry production in many parts of the world, the institute added.
Nair, head of the Viral Oncogenesis group at Pirbright, said, “Working with ECO Animal Health group gives us the opportunity to translate some of these innovative technologies into products that can be applied in the field to bring real benefit to the poultry industry through more effective disease control.”
ECO Animal Health Group chief executive officer Marc Loomes added, “The use of the Marek’s disease vector in this technology is a significant advancement over the herpesvirus of turkey-based recombinant vector vaccines, with the potential of providing additional stronger protection for Marek’s disease as well as the other major three diseases. This will help widen the potential use of this vaccine in broilers and in breeding stock.”
The second project, jointly led by Nair and Dr. Erica Bickerton, aims to develop a novel biological product using a viral vector system expressing proteins that will aid in the protection of chickens against infectious bronchitis (IB).
Diseases like IB represent a huge threat to food security and the economy, Pirbright said. Poultry is a vitally important food source, with about 44 billion chickens produced worldwide every year. It is estimated that every 10% reduction in IB incidence would be worth around £654 million ($807 million) to the global poultry industry, which underscores the need for innovative new ways to combat the disease effectively, the institute said.
The new approach is expected to tackle the increasing diversity of the causative IB virus strains and represents the application of innovative technologies for improved control of major avian diseases such as IB.
Bickerton, head of the coronaviruses group at Pirbright, said, “The new partnership between The Pirbright Institute and ECO offers us an excellent opportunity to further our understanding of [IB virus] diversity and to develop new technologies to effectively protect chickens against this important poultry disease.”