A state economic development fund grant will help Iowa State University (ISU) researchers develop and evaluate a swine vaccine to protect against the novel H1N1 flu and other strains of swine influenza virus.

The allocation is part of seven competitive grants funded by the state board of regents from the Grow Iowa Values Fund. The H1N1 flu project was funded at $146,610.

The ISU research team working on the swine vaccine includes Brad Bosworth, an affiliate associate professor of animal science; Ryan Vander Veen, a doctoral student in immunology; Mark Mogler, a doctoral student in veterinary microbiology; and D.L. “Hank” Harris, DVM, an animal science professor and owner of Harrisvaccines, Inc. (doing business as Sirrah Bios) at the Iowa State University Research Park.

Sirrah Bios has licensed a vaccine technology that relies on molecular biology rather than the traditional method of growing, killing and processing a virus, Harris says. In the process, components are removed from a basic or vector virus and replaced with genes from the targeted virus. The resulting replicon particle and replicon subunit vaccines trigger an immune response against the disease.

Bosworth says a key strength of the technology is its ability to rapidly develop a new vaccine in response to an outbreak.

“That’s really important for the flu,” he says. “Flu strains change a lot. And this technology can quickly respond to those changes.”

Vander Veen says researchers have found the technology effectively protects pigs from the H3N2 flu virus. Using the grant funds, the team will test its effectiveness against other swine flu strains.

“We’ve got to make sure this protects pigs,” Harris says. “And we have to determine the effective dose to protect pigs.”