USA, Parsippany, NJ. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the US Department of Agriculture is seeking comments on its plan to grant Zoetis LLC, Kalamazoo, Michigan, an exclusive license to develop a vaccine to control African Swine Fever (ASF).
Currently, there is no approved commercially available vaccine against the virus.
Zoetis said granting the license would pave the way for Zoetis to develop a vaccine in coordination with the USDA to help control ASF. However, the road to a commercially available vaccine will be long.
“African swine fever was recognized as a significant transboundary threat years ago.” the company said. “The Zoetis Center for Transboundary and Emerging Diseases team has been engaged in working towards a solution, and the development of a vaccine with the USDA is one of them.”
ARS intends to grant the exclusive, royalty bearing license to the company unless the agency receives evidence that doing so would be inconsistent with federal regulations, according to a notice in the Federal Register. The deadline for comments is 14 November, 2018.
The US Patent and Trademark Office granted Zoetis two patents: “Attenuated African Swine Fever Virus Vaccine Based in the Deletion of MGF Genes” on 27 December, 2016, and “Rationally developed African Swine Fever Attenuated Virus Strain Protects Against Challenge with Parental Virus Georgia 2007 Isolate” on 7 November, 2017.
Zoetis explained that the causative agent of ASF is an enveloped, double-stranded DNA arbovirus, called the African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV). Researchers deleted six specific genes of the highly virulent ASFV Georgia 2007 isolate and recombined the DNA parts reducing the virulence, or severity, of the parent virus.
“Pigs immunized with live attenuated ASF viruses containing engineered deletions of specific ASFV virulence-associated genes were protected when challenged with homologous parental virus,” according to documents filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
ASF prevention is top of mind for officials and stakeholders in the US swine industry. In remarks to attendees at the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) Fall Forum in Washington, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said, “We are going to double down the guard to keep ASF out of the US – and we will continue to be ever-vigilant of that concern. We’re increasing our biosecurity protocols… We’re working now to make sure we have adequate federal and state laboratory capacity to handle any of the testing needs that may occur.”