Invention leads to high-tech animal vaccine, diagnostics company

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WOOSTER, Ohio -- Patented technology developed at Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) has led to the creation of a startup company for the production of diagnostic tools and vaccines to combat poultry and livestock diseases.

LARAD Inc. is the result of Ohio State research conducted by Daral Jackwood, a professor in OARDC's Food Animal Health Research Program. OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

"LARAD Inc. is also the first OARDC spinout into the BioHio Research Park," said Shauna R. Brummet, president and CEO of BioHio, an agbioscience technology park based on OARDC's Wooster campus.

"We are very excited to work with Dr. Jackwood in the startup of his company providing support and guidance at this early stage," Brummet said. "This is an example of the important technology being developed at OARDC that can be moved into a locally based startup company, which will create high-paying jobs in our region."

LARAD According to Jackwood, the company is using molecular biology methods to develop virus-like-particle (VLP) technology for new vaccines and diagnostics that will benefit the food-animal industry and safeguard our food-production system.

"These are cutting-edge products that will allow the industry to do things it hasn't been able to do before," said Jackwood, LARAD Inc. founder and scientific adviser. LARAD stands for Leadership for Advanced Responses to Animal Diseases.

The company will initially focus on production of VLPs for infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV), a highly contagious immunosuppressive disease that affects poultry worldwide. Effective control of this disease is critical to the United States, the world's largest poultry producer with an annual farm value in excess of $20 billion.

In Ohio, IBDV threatens an industry worth close to $700 million a year and which supports more than 15,000 jobs.

"Using the unique VLPs created in our lab through genetic engineering, we have produced and validated a universal vaccine that will protect against multiple strains of IBDV," Jackwood said. "Another advantage of this vaccine is that it is flexible, meaning that if virus mutations take place, new antigens can be introduced to keep pace with those changes.

"Currently, there are no commercially available VLP vaccines for IBDV or any other poultry disease, and there are no universal vaccines of any kind available in the market for prevention of IBDV."

LARAD's IBDV vaccine can be produced at a reduced cost compared to conventional inactivated vaccines currently used internationally, and has the potential to capture this $17 million a year market, according to Jackwood. The vaccine could also replace autogenous vaccines used by the U.S poultry industry, a market currently worth $3-4 million annually and projected to increase two-fold over the next five years, Jackwood said.

The company also plans to produce VLPs as reagents for use in IBDV diagnostic kits. The VLP reagents, Jackwood said, are of higher quality and less expensive than the ones presently used in the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) kits made by diagnostic companies.

In the future, LARAD plans to expand its portfolio to include VLP vaccines and diagnostic reagents for other diseases, including viral diseases of swine, cattle, horses, fish, cats and dogs. The market value for such a broad food-animal and companion-animal disease portfolio could reach into the billions of dollars, Jackwood said.

LARAD's early-stage management support is being provided by OARDC's BioHio Research Park and Ohio State's Technology Commercialization Office. A CEO, Ken Rudd, has been identified for the company. Rudd has more than 40 years of experience in the animal biologics industry, including companies such as Merial, Select Labs and Salsbury Laboratories.

The company is currently looking for seed funds to establish a physical lab at BioHio Research Park. It is also looking for investors, including major biologics and diagnostics companies.

"The potential for this company to become a leader in the area of VLP technology for protecting the health of food animals and companion animals is very high," Brummet said.



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