The Vaccine Group starts work on COVID-19 animal vaccine, makes strong progress with technology


The Vaccine Group is today announcing it has made significant progress towards developing its novel vaccine platform technology. A series of major steps forward have been made:

  • Rabbit trials of a prototype bovine mastitis vaccine have revealed significant potential for new intellectual property and demonstrated the technology’s ability to deliver strong, targeted immune responses
  • Vaccines to combat bovine tuberculosis and African Swine Fever Virus are about to enter initial animal trials. It has been less than a year since the Company started work on African Swine Fever
  • US government-backed work to develop vaccines to tackle Ebola and Lassa fever virus are making good progress
  • The Company has started work on coronavirus vaccines for use in animals to prevent future human coronavirus zoonotic emergence and will be working in partnership with Shanghai Veterinary Research Institute in China and Kansas State University.

The University of Plymouth spin out and its international partners are backed by more than £9 million in grant funding from the Chinese, UK and US governments. It is developing vaccines based on benign forms of herpesviruses, a group of viruses found in all animals, including humans. They are created by inserting a non-infectious region of DNA from the pathogen being targeted into the herpesvirus. This vaccine then stimulates an immune response against the disease when delivered into animals.

Other projects underway include developing a vaccine against Streptococcus suis, a disease in pigs which can be fatal in humans. This has so far produced two vaccine candidates for further testing. The project is funded by the UK Department of Health and Social Care and the Chinese government. Other partners include the Shanghai Veterinary Research Institute and Chinese vaccine manufacturer Pulike Biological Engineering Company.

The success in animals of the bovine mastitis vaccine, which has been funded by global bacterial vaccine network Bactivac, has provided important validation for TVG’s platform. The potential for new areas of intellectual property emerged during the course of research.

TVG self-funded the work on African Swine Fever, a disease which has had a major economic impact in China and on pork prices globally, having killed or led to the slaughter of 25 per cent of the global pig population last year. The proof of concept vaccine is about to enter pig trials at Kansas State University.

Bovine tuberculosis is seen as a major animal health threat in the UK and, as a zoonotic disease, to human health in lower-to-middle-income countries. The vaccine candidate is entering a small-scale cattle trial.

The Company is now starting development of a vaccine to tackle COVID-19 for use in animals in partnership with the Shanghai Veterinary Research Institute and Kansas State University. The plan is to develop a vaccine designed to prevent COVID-19 and related coronaviruses jumping from animals into humans. TVG believes it is the only Company adopting such an approach.

TVG Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Associate Professor Dr Michael Jarvis, said:  “As COVID-19 has shown, the spillover of disease from animals to humans can have a very high social, economic and commercial cost globally.

“Naturally there has been a swift move into funding the development of human vaccines and therapeutics, but to date we are not aware of any approaches to eliminate Covid-19 in the animal population to prevent future outbreaks or re-emergence of the disease.

“The animal species involved in emergence of COVID-19 remain unclear. We believe that such a vaccine tool may be vital for control of COVID-19 as well as other emerging coronaviruses. We have therefore started work on a vaccine and will be partnering with the Shanghai Veterinary Research Institute and Kansas State University, with whom we already have close links.”