LARAD, a startup using proprietary virus-like-particle (VLP) technology to develop vaccines and diagnostics for animal diseases, received a $470,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant to develop VLP vaccines for food-animal diseases. The two-year Phase II grant from the United States Department of Agriculture will allow LARAD to take the vaccine technology developed for infectious bursal disease with a Phase I grant and apply it to other food-animal diseases.
VLPs are similar to viruses and are recognized by the animal’s immune system, giving protection against the disease. But unlike conventional live virus vaccines, VLP vaccines do not contain any genetic material so they cannot cause disease. And while conventional vaccines become less effective as viruses mutate, LARAD can adapt its VLP vaccines to combat changing viruses.
“This customizability is a game-changing approach that hasn’t been possible in the animal vaccine industry until now,” said Dr. Daral Jackwood, LARAD founder and chief executive officer. “And its implications for the food industry are significant given the number of economically devastating animal diseases that are caused by viruses.”
LARAD will add at least two new vaccines to its arsenal with the Phase II funding. The company plans to develop a VLP vaccine against infectious pancreatic necrosis virus, which causes a disease in farm-raised salmonids, and avian reovirus, the cause of viral arthritis in poultry. Current vaccines for both diseases are only marginally effective due to changes that occur in the virus.
“Safe and affordable food is an important part of human health and wellness and diseases that affect food animals threaten the safety and quantity of this food source,” says Jackwood. “We are pleased that the USDA has chosen to support LARAD so we can develop adaptive vaccines that will help producers continue to provide a safe food supply.”