Breakthrough in ASF Vaccine Research: KSU Receives Grant for Innovative Solutions

Kansas State University (KSU) has recently secured a significant grant from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) to spearhead the development of urgently needed vaccines against African Swine Fever (ASF). This $1 million Seeding Solution grant aims to accelerate the creation of rapidly deployable ASF vaccines, crucial for safeguarding pork producers’ interests.

Backing this crucial initiative, Elanco Animal Health, Kansas State University Innovation Partners, and MEDIAN Diagnostics Inc. have stepped up with matching funds, resulting in a substantial investment exceeding $2.64 million. This concerted effort underscores the industry’s recognition of the imminent threat posed by ASF and the critical need for proactive measures.

ASF remains a formidable threat globally, with recent outbreaks in the Dominican Republic and Haiti heightening concerns about its potential spread. Without effective vaccines or treatments, pork producers are left with limited options, such as bolstering biosecurity measures and implementing stringent surveillance protocols.

Jasmine Bruno, scientific program director for FFAR, highlights the significance of this research, emphasizing its potential to mitigate the devastating impact of ASF on the US pork industry. The outcomes of this endeavor could significantly curb the virus’s transmission, thereby safeguarding millions of pigs and ensuring the stability of the food supply chain.

At the forefront of this groundbreaking research is Dr. Waithaka Mwangi, an esteemed immunology professor at KSU’s Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology. Dr. Mwangi and his research team are diligently working on identifying ASF proteins that trigger a protective immune response, determining optimal dosage levels for pigs, and exploring the most effective immunization platforms.

Furthermore, the research endeavors to devise methods for distinguishing between infected and vaccinated pigs—a crucial aspect for effective disease management. Addressing production constraints and ensuring safety standards are met are paramount to gaining regulatory approval for the vaccine, a challenge the research team is steadfastly tackling.

This collaborative effort between academia, industry partners, and funding organizations underscores a collective commitment to combating ASF and fortifying the resilience of the pork industry against emerging threats. With continued dedication and investment, breakthroughs in ASF vaccine research offer a promising path towards protecting global swine populations and securing food supply chains.