New Grant Funds Development of Safe, Rapidly Deployable ASF Vaccines

Apr 08, 2024

A $1 million Seeding Solutions grant from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) has been awarded to Kansas State University (K-State) to develop safe and rapidly deployable vaccines to prevent African swine fever (ASF) virus. Elanco Animal Health, K-State, Kansas State University Innovation Partners and MEDIAN Diagnostics, Inc. provided matching funds for a $2,645,427 total investment.

“Should the virus reach the U.S., outputs from this research could slow the virus’ spread, protect millions of U.S. pigs and safeguard our food supply,” Jasmine Bruno, scientific program director at FFAR, said in a release.

ASF has been detected in over 50 countries in recent years. It continues to spread across Europe, Asia and Africa. Although this deadly disease of swine may seem miles away, the urgency to protect the U.S. swine herd from ASF has never been greater.

"Without a preventative vaccine or treatment, producers’ only control option are enhancing biosecurity, increasing surveillance and quarantining or culling infected pigs. Producers need a way to protect their herds, as losses would be staggering not only for the pork industry, but also for other agriculture commodities that support the industry, like corn and soy," FFAR said in a release.

To address this urgent concern, Waithaka Mwangi, immunology professor in the Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, College of Veterinary at K-State, is developing and validating a vaccine to protect pigs from the virus.

"Certain proteins inherent within the virus can activate an immune response in swine. This research is identifying which ASFV proteins induce protective immune responses, the optimal vaccine dose, the most effective immunization platform and a way to differentiate infected from vaccinated pigs. Additionally, the research team is addressing safety concerns and production constraints that would allow regulatory agencies to approve the use of this vaccine," FFAR noted in a release.

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