The Pirbright Institute and its research partners have granted MSD Animal Health an exclusive commercial licence for a new vaccine to protect livestock against several serotypes of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV).

According to the Institute, the new vaccine is more stable than current foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccines and is less reliant on a cold-chain during vaccine distribution.

These characteristics give the vaccine greater potential for helping to relieve the burden placed on regions where the disease is endemic in large parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

The vaccine has been developed over the years from basic science to animal trials as a result of long-standing collaborations between Pirbright, the University of Oxford, Diamond Light Source, the University of Reading and MSD Animal Health, who will now be taking forward the new technology into development, registration and manufacturing.

The granting of the licence is an important milestone in years of research led by Professor Bryan Charleston, director at Pirbright, Professor David Stuart, life sciences director at Diamond Light Source and MRC Professor in Structural Biology at the University of Oxford and Professor Ian Jones, University of Reading.

Regions where the disease is not endemic could also benefit since trade would not be hindered by a vaccination programme and this protection would eliminate the need for mass culling in the event of an outbreak. Importantly, this method of making and stabilising vaccines could potentially be employed in the fight against other viruses from the same family, including polio.

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Professor Bryan Charleston, director of The Pirbright Institute, said: “We are proud and excited that our research has resulted in a vaccine that is undergoing commercial development and will have a major impact on the health and wellbeing of those people whose livelihoods have been most severely affected by this devastating disease."

Defra chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, said: “This is a major milestone in tackling foot-and-mouth disease in the developing countries where it is endemic. The increased robustness of this new vaccine has the potential to not only protect livestock, but to transform the lives of people whose livelihoods have previously been threatened by this disease.

"Many people have worked for years to get to this point, and I am delighted to see the vaccine receive its commercial licence.”

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