Marek’s advance heralds potential new generation of poultry vaccines

The use of genetic engineering to develop a “more efficient and effective” vaccine for Marek’s disease could pave the way for a new generation of poultry disease vaccines, according to the UK’s Pirbright Institute.

Commenting that the technologies currently available for creating recombinant vaccines are difficult and time consuming to use, Pirbright has highlighted the role of a new gene editing technique called CRISPR/Cas9 (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats/ associated Cas9) in the development of its new Marek’s vaccine.

Dr Yongxiu Yao, a senior scientist working in the Viral Oncogenesis group at the Institute, used CRISPR/Cas9 technology in the creation of an innovative Marek’s vaccine, a solution which is claimed will be much quicker and easier to produce than has previously been possible.

“This is a great opportunity to create a new generation of vaccines,” said Dr Yao, adding that the gene editing advance has unlocked the potential to provide protection against all strains of Marek’s disease virus, as well as other dangerous avian viruses such as bird flu.

“More cost effective and efficient vaccines will help protect both avian and human health and potentially deliver major social and economic benefits in the UK and around the world”.

The Institute is currently in discussion with international poultry vaccine manufacturing companies concerning the potential commercial exploitation of this approach.

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