Roslin Technologies signs collaboration agreement to develop E. coli vaccine

Monday 23rd September 2019, 9:30am

Roslin Technologies has signed an agreement with animal sciences research establishments Moredun Research Institute, Scotland’s Rural College and The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, to fund the commercial development of an E. coli O157:H7 vaccine for cattle to prevent life-threatening illnesses in humans. 

The project team has been led by Dr Simon Wheeler COO of Roslin Technologies, with significant input from the Principal Investigators Professor David Gally of The Roslin Institute and Dr Tom McNeilly of Moredun Research Institute.

Roslin Technologies is a tenant company at Roslin Innovation Centre, with office and lab space on the Easter Bush Campus.

"Drs David Gally and Tom McNeilly performed extensive initial research on the vaccine. They’ve been doing the fundamental research necessary to really understand whether the vaccine works and the essential science behind it."

"Now, that we’re progressing into the vaccine’s commercial development phase, they are an integral part of the project team and will be deeply involved at every stage as we move forward."

Dr Simon Wheeler, Chief Operating Officer, Roslin Technologies

E. coli O157:H7 is a pathogenic bacterium of cattle which can cause life-threatening foodborne illness in humans through the consumption of contaminated products such as dairy products and meat. Despite efforts to reduce contamination of food, E. coli O157:H7 causes 1-10 cases per 100,000 people, with certain countries having clusters of more virulent strains (UK, USA, Argentina, and Sweden). 

The experimental vaccine has been developed to limit E. coli O157:H7 shedding from, and transmission between, cattle. Although the bacteria doesn’t harm the cattle, farmers will be encouraged to vaccinate animals against infection and this new vaccine should enable this to be done cost-effectively. Early results have indicated that the vaccine may be more effective than other previous attempts and have a greater impact in reducing human exposure and infection.  

Under the new agreement, Roslin Technologies will perform a two-step validation trial from May – September 2020 in Nebraska, USA. The field trials will examine super-shedding in cattle (the passing of large volumes of bacteria in faeces) to discover whether the vaccine prevents shedding of the bacteria and is viable for commercial use.  

"In order to be granted a licence, you have to show positive results from large scale trials, and particularly for this vaccine, prove it works in the US feedlot system. E. coli O157:H7 is prevalent in the US, as well as parts of South America and Europe, including the UK."

"The biggest market for this vaccine is in the USA and South America. To be commercially viable one has to show the vaccine works in their systems. We have a wonderful collaboration with the USDA and they’ve agreed to run a field trial in Nebraska with the help of Roslin Technologies."  

Dr Tom McNeilly, Moredun Research Instititute

Throughout the trials, David and Tom will advise on the design and execution of field trials, monitoring the cattle, how to administer the vaccine and gathering data. 

"I’m delighted that Roslin Technologies has invested in the vaccine as it allows the chance for what’s been over a decade of work, investment and research to go to the next stage."

"It means we can build collaboration with US partners to understand how the vaccine works and hopefully provide further commercial development and investment opportunities for Roslin Technologies and other commercial companies in this space."

Professor David Gally, The Roslin Institute

The background research was in part funded by UK agencies DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs), BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, FSA/FSS (Food Standards Agency/Food Standards Scotland), and other commercial partners; this valuable contribution is recognised by the project team. 

Professor Jacqui Matthews, Chief Technology Officer at Roslin Technologies, has recently taken over leadership of the vaccine project and will be directing the efforts further towards commercialisation the vaccine by proving efficacy in field trials.