The Pirbright Institute has won £1.58 million for a project to develop a safe and effective livestock vaccine for Rift Valley fever (RVF).

RVF has been prioritised for vaccine research.

The funding boost makes the institute one of the largest recipients of the Government’s £120 million fund to fight deadly disease.

Emerging global health threat

RVF is an emerging global health threat that has been prioritised for vaccine research and development by the World Health Organization and other international health bodies.

RVF is caused by the RVF virus (RVFV), which, although restricted to Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, can be transmitted by at least 10 mosquito species that are more widely distributed than RVFV is at present, which has led to concern about the potential for further spread of the disease.

Sheep, goats, cattle and camels are highly susceptible to RVFV infection, which can cause up to 90% mortality.

‘Powerful endorsement’

The disease can also spread to humans through infectious mosquito bites and contact with RVFV-contaminated tissues and fluid.

No licensed vaccines are available for humans, and the RVFV livestock vaccines that use live virus, widely used in Africa, vary in their effectiveness.

Institute interim director and chief executive Bryan Charleston said the group was delighted to have won the money and secured funding for two other projects via the Government scheme.

“It is a powerful endorsement of the world-class science we are delivering at Pirbright,” he said. “We will be conducting field trials in Kenya of a new vaccine candidate that has a better safety record than existing vaccines and shown to be more effective.

“This project will address an important disease in Africa and provide a tool to aid the control of disease in countries free of RVFV that experience outbreaks either through natural causes or by malicious spread.”

RVFV livestock vaccines used in Africa vary in their effectiveness.

Multiple win

Members of the Jenner Institute, based at Pirbright and Oxford, have been working for a number of years on developing a vaccine against RVFV. The team for this project will be led by George Warimwe, who is jointly funded by the two organisations.

The Pirbright Institute also won Government funding for two other vaccine development projects, including £2.76 million for advanced development of a safe and effective vaccine for livestock and humans for Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever and £1.69 million for phase one studies of a novel chimpanzee adenovirus RVF vaccine for humans.

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