OSU Signs Licensing Agreement for New Vaccine

Cell Culture Derived Vaccine Holds Promise for Cattle Industry


Tom Johnston
Communications Services
Oklahoma State University
(405) 744-6260

Dr. Katherine Kocan
Oklahoma State University has signed a licensing agreement for the continued development of a cell culture-derived anaplasmosis vaccine that could save the nation's cattle industry $300 million a year. Announcement of the new vaccine was made to the Oklahoma State University/A&M Board of Regents at a meeting Friday (March 3).

Anaplasmosis is a blood parasite that invades red blood cells of cattle. The animal's immune system then begins to remove the infected red blood cells, which causes the animals to suffer acute anemia. Although the condition can be disastrous to the cattle industry, no vaccines are currently available.

Dr. Guven Yalcintas, OSU director of intellectual property and technology transfer, said an agreement was recently signed with Grand Laboratories of Larchwood, Iowa. The projected cost for the vaccine is between 50 cents to $1.50 per shot. Upon development of a trivalent vaccine to cover the three strains that affect the United States, Yalcintas estimates the vaccine has the potential to save the cattle industry $300 million every year.

Grand Laboratories paid fees to cover patent costs for the vaccine and will pay OSU royalties from sales. Yalcintas estimates yearly sales could eventually top $20 million.

Research on the vaccine was coordinated by Dr. Katherine Kocan at OSU's College of Veterinary Medicine. Kocan and OSU colleague Dr. Edmour Blouin have worked for a number of years in concert with Drs. Ulrike Munderloh and Timothy Kurtti of the University of Minnesota to bring about the successful growth of the anaplasmosis organism in a tick cell culture system.

"The tick cell cultures used for growing the organism are unlike any other cultures," she said. "You have to develop a whole new protocol in working with them, and Ed Blouin has it down to an art. I call him our tick cell culture 'artist,' " she said.

Kocan's OSU predecessors devised the first effective vaccine against anaplasmosis in 1965. That vaccine, although tremendously effective, had undesirable side effects.

"In some cases," she said, "it was contaminated with cattle red blood cells, causing problems with calves from the cows that had been immunized. The calves' immune systems would attack normal red blood cells, thus rendering the calves anemic."

Because of this and a number of other factors, Kocan said members of her research group have made a concerted effort to develop methods of growing the cells apart from live cattle.

"We think it holds a lot of promise," Kocan said of the new process. "With a cell culture derived vaccine, we're dealing only with the anaplasmosis organism and not with cattle blood and all it might contain. It also allows us to experimentally manipulate the cell in ways that were previously impossible, and to do so at a greatly reduced cost, compared to using live cattle."

When you also consider that because of business mergers of pharmaceutical companies, all anaplasmosis vaccines were taken off the market in 1998, and the fact that 1999 was a horrible anaplasmosis year, you have a market that is ready for a new and effective vaccine, Kocan explained.

Kocan said that in order to make one vaccine that will be effective for the entire United States, it must contain three strains. "We have propagated the strain that affects cattle in Oklahoma," she said, "and we will begin testing it as a vaccine in about two weeks."

Kocan said the research group hopes to eventually propagate the other two strains in cell culture and develop one vaccine that would protect against all anaplasmosis in the country.

Research for the project was made possible through funding provided by the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station (OAES) in cooperation with the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. OAES is the research arm of OSU's Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. Additional support also came from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancment of Science and Technology (OCAST).

For information about this page, send e-mail to Tom Johnston.

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