New investment for RNA vaccine research

AgResearch has welcomed new investment into the use of RNA technology to address livestock health, welfare and productivity.

The government recently established an RNA Platform to identify and support opportunities for New Zealand in areas such as human health and the health of other animals. It builds on global progress in use of these technologies, most notably the development of mRNA vaccines that saved numerous lives through the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of a series of Fast Start projects funded through the RNA platform, investment has been approved for AgResearch scientists to provide a a proof-of-concept for the application of RNA vaccines in livestock, specifically to address Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD). BVD is a highly contagious disease causing significant economic losses in the livestock industry, with estimates putting the annual losses for dairy farmers at around $127 million.

The funding announcement stated that “existing BVD vaccines exhibit unreliability, especially against the prevalent BVDV strain in New Zealand”.

AgResearch chief scientist and animal health researcher Axel Heiser says the investment is an exciting opportunity to build on the research done to date.

“For a food-producing nation like New Zealand, there is potential for huge gains in the health, welfare and productivity of our tens of millions of farmed animals,”he says.

“New mRNA vaccines could address common diseases in livestock. They could be particularly effective against viral diseases such as BVD and Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis, but also against bacterial diseases such as mastitis and endometritis. These diseases have a significant impact on animal health and welfare, and productivity of our agriculture sector.”

RNA (Ribonucleic acid), often considered the lesser-known relative of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid), plays a vital role in the processes of cells in living things.

While DNA contains the complete genetic information necessary for building and maintaining an organism, RNA serves as a messenger and facilitator of genetic instructions (hence mRNA for `messenger RNA’). RNA is responsible for transcribing genetic information from DNA and carrying it to the machinery in cells involved in the creation of proteins. It delivers instructions for constructing cells or responding to immune challenges.

mRNA vaccines work by preparing the body to defend itself against a specific disease. They do this by introducing pieces of mRNA that tell the cells in the body how to make part of a viral protein, which can be recognised by the immune system as foreign. The immune system then makes immune cells and antibodies which recognise the specific virus when it is contracted.

Read more about the Fast Start projects funded through the RNA Platform here.

Source: AgResearch



Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog