With the discovery that the H1N1 Influenza A virus has been found in a Canadian swine herd, an Iowa State University (ISU) veterinary researcher is seeking funds to pursue development of an H1N1 vaccine for pigs.

“Now that H1N1 virus is in pigs, we’re seeking funding to conduct a proof-of-concept study to demonstrate how rapidly we can produce an effective and safe vaccine for pigs,” says Harris, professor in animal science and veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine.

Harris’ start-up company at the ISU Research Park, Harrisvaccines, Inc., uses a technology that is much faster for producing vaccines than traditional methods.

The technique is called RNA backbone, and was developed for human use by a North Carolina company called Alphavax. Harrisvaccines, Inc. has adapted it for pigs.

The technique uses electric current to combine the RNA backbone material with genetic information from the active flu virus through a process called electro-poration.

According to Harris the flu vaccine could be produced and ready for approval in about a month or two, and final approval could be as early as 2010 or 2011.

Harris’ faster method was also used during an outbreak of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome. Harris’ Backbone method allowed vaccines to be ready within two months of the outbreak. That research was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Small Business Innovation Research Program.

“Right now, to make human or animal vaccines, you have to get the live virus and grow it in eggs or cell culture and then inactivate it,” he says. “We don’t have to do that.

“That’s what’s really neat about this technology; you don’t really need the live virus,” he says. “We just need the genes from the original virus which can be made synthetically.”

The virus’ genetic material is easily available. The new H1N1 virus, for example, has already been genetically mapped and is available on the Internet and in the public domain.