Agriculture Official Says Vaccine Being Developed
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A vaccine injected by a new automated system into baby chicks before they hatch is under commercial development to help rid the $7 billion chicken industry of one of its worst diseases, the Agriculture Department said Monday.
Terry B. Kinney Jr., administrator of the department’s Agricultural Research Service, said the vaccine is being developed under an agreement with Embrex Inc., Research Triangle Park, N.C.
″I believe this marks the first federal-private agreement authorized by the 1986 Technology Transfer Act, which Congress passed to help get government research out of the laboratory and into the marketplace,″ Kinney said.
The project is aimed at preventing coccidiosis, said to be the worst parasitic disease of chickens. Losses to the U.S. industry are estimated at $300 million a year, he said.
Under the agreement, scientists in the USDA agency will further test ″antigens″ or bits of the disease microrganism for use in a potential vaccine. Embrex can then use the best antigens to commercially develop an embroyo injected vaccine.
The company is expected to begin large-scale cooperative tests next month by using its patented egg-injection machine to deliver vaccine to thousands of chicken embryos.
Kinney said his agency has had preliminary success in using the antigens to trigger resistance to coccidiosis, but the antigens have not been tried with embryos.
Anti-viral and anti-bacterial vaccines are available now and are administered to about 5 billion newly hatched chicks each year. But Kinney said an automated egg-injection system could increase the precision of vaccinations, give immunity sooner and overcome the incompatibility of different vaccines.
Alan Herosian, president of Embrex, said the new system could also reduce vaccination stress on newly hatched chickens.
″We’ll be able to maximize each other’s technical expertise to explore and develop a major new product to fight coccidiosis,″ Herosian said in a statement.
Embrex, as the commercial developer, will be able to obtain an exclusive license for making and selling any in-egg coccidiosis vaccine that results from the research.
Kinney said scientists who developed the antigens at USDA’s research center in Beltsville, Md., will provide antigens to Embrex for further purification and processing.
The company will buy several thousand fertile eggs locally and inject the antigens when the embryos are 17 days old - four days before they are due to hatch. The chicks will be sent to the Beltsville center to be raised and injected with coccidiosis parasites to see if they developed immunity.
Coccidiosis infects the chicken’s digestive tract and can kill the bird unless treated with drugs routinely given in the feed. Even with drug treatment, the disease causes weight loss and other problems.