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GALVmed: Success of brucellosis vaccine innovation could be replicated for other diseases

An overwhelmingly positive reaction to a new funding competition in animal health could see its format extended to a wider scope.

Edinburgh-based charity Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) has been managing the Brucellosis Vaccine Prize, which has now entered its second phase.

The $30 million competition – an AgResults initiative – has brought a unique format of R&D funding to the animal health world, which GALVmed said has so far been successful in stimulating developments in an often forgotten area of vaccine research.

Peter Jeffries, GALVmed chief executive, told Animal Pharm: "If you told me two years ago how successful the Brucellosis Vaccine Prize would be, I would have been shocked. Brucellosis was not drawing any attention and now I think that's completely changed."

The competition has awarded initial funding to a wide range of winners from across the globe including Virbac, Brucella Greenvac, CZ Veterinaria, the UK's Animal & Plant Health Agency, iVacBio, the University of Florida, Texas A&M University, the Universidad Nacional de San Martín, the University of Georgia and China Agricultural University.

"We've had more good applicants than we would have had been able to fund previously. The likelihood is this model will be replicated for other projects."

This group of winners combines established animal health companies with vaccine specialists, start-ups, government agencies and academia – highlighting the appeal of the funding to a variety of applicants.

Dr Jeffries said: "It's an attractive approach. The publicity this prize has brought for brucellosis has been great.

"If you look at the history of AgResults, they have always been looking for new ways of doing things. They have several projects in other ag areas that are smaller than the Brucellosis Vaccine Prize. Nobody knew if this was a model that would work in animal health. Of course, it's high-risk.

"I think we've shown that with the right support and the right publicity, we've been able to tweak a nerve and bring attention to brucellosis.

"We've had more good applicants than we would have had been able to fund previously. The likelihood is this model will be replicated for other projects."

While the competition has awarded organizations with $1m collectively so far, Dr Jeffries said the four $1m intermediate prizes plus the grand prize of $20m would have a dramatic impact on small and large companies alike. He said the Brucellosis Vaccine Prize is not only expediting ongoing vaccine projects for brucellosis that needed a funding boost but it is also helping technology platforms prove their feasibility in brucellosis prevention.

Dr Jeffries also pointed out GALVmed's desire for some of the prize winners to partner with each other on vaccine development, whether that be for brucellosis or other livestock diseases. However, he said the competition has to strike the right balance between confidentiality of R&D and collaboration.

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