Danish Technology Platform for Global Animal Health
Blog / Research Projects
Posted on Aug 19, 2009
A European academic Network for vaccine research
Basic idea
Foundation of a European Network for vaccine research and vaccine development. The network should promote the development of vaccines for endemic diseases at the most advanced level, and should also include development of vaccines for minor-organisms - minor species (MOMS). ”European Technology Platform for Global Animal Health - Vision 2015” (2005) refers explicit to the limited progression in vaccines (p.23). The purpose of this close co-operation is development and production of new and better vaccines in the future.

The status could start as a Network of Excellence under EU-FP; however from the very beginning focus of sustainability and the building of more basic functions with close relations between industry and research institutions should be emphasized. As an attempt to combine different interests and perceptions among the players in the field, the Network could be guided by an advisory body consisting of representatives from the industry, veterinarians, authorities, and public research institutions helping identifying main problems concerning vaccine development. The advisory board has the responsibility for nomination of internationally recognized researchers as members of research projects in endemic diseases, which will be carried out by the best topic-specific research groups in Europe. This consultative organ contributes with an identification of the problems seen from the perspective of relevant end-users: General public, pharmaceutical industry, authorities, farmer organisations and basic research. A closer determination of subjects and areas of generic nature such as innate immunity, T cell immunity, DNA-vaccines, bioinformatics, antigen delivery could be discussed by a Scientific Committee with representatives from the participating parties. The actual research projects should be lead by experienced scientific managers.

Possible research areas and functions
All aspects in relation to design, development and testing of vaccines should be supported by the Vaccine Network activities. In particular, vaccine development based on genomics and proteomics approaches should have priority.
Research training programmes for young researchers would be very relevant activities initiated and supported by the Vaccine Network.
In a long term perspective the Vaccine Network for research should be one of the leading parties in the research and design of future vaccines in the prioritized areas. Furthermore, it should be a reliable party for advising and making strategies for future research areas of more generic and fundamental nature, and should include other relevant research areas and disciplines such as exotic diseases, risk assessment, public health, economy, and sociology (to study of the perception from the public etc.). The Vaccine Network should hereby provide a system addressed to decision-support among European authorities.

European Added value
In essence multi-level capacity building is an attempt to bring basic and applied research closer together and create mutual trust between the involved participants. Hopefully this could also stimulate to more bilateral arrangements between private and public organisations outside this network. The overall European perspective is to produce one coherent value chain from research idea to vaccine production. Finally: This initiative could contribute at ”strengthening the scientific foundation of the Community animal health policy” (ACTION PLAN for the implementation of the EU Animal Health Strategy, COM (2008) 545 final, p. 5).

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Posted on Aug 19, 2009
Coordination of veterinary epidemiological research on infectious diseases in Europe
Basic idea and purpose
Today veterinary epidemiological studies and education are carried out at national level in the member states. “There is no central institution with coordinating responsibilities for fundamental and applied research in the field of infectious diseases and epidemiology” (ETPGAH Strategic Research Agenda, p. 29). Establishment of a coordination of animal health research at European level will be to the benefit of the public, the industry, authorities and research institutions. The purpose is to create a cost effective body for mapping, education and coordination and initiating of timely projects related to veterinary epidemiological research of infectious diseases. The initiative will ensure coordination of research and education activities in the area of veterinary epidemiology of infectious diseases, and thus secure access to a more objective, transparent and comparable information concerning the occurrence, dissemination and control of animal diseases. An important precondition is access to ongoing research projects, research results and data from inside and outside Europe.

Tasks and functions
This coordination is a tool which can support the authorities and the industry in their decision-making process (and thereby strengthen a European animal health emergency strategy), including optimizing the use of resources in the area, prepare better risk based surveillance, risk handling and improve biosecurity. A key point is rapid and easy access to new animal health research concerning risk based and targeted surveillance, based on direct and indirect well-documented risk factors for diseases and health, hereby securing that resources are focused on areas with high problem-probability. This coordinating organ can contribute on a permanent basis to an updated picture of threats as regards animal diseases, for example also useful as information in relation to the public media.

To fulfil this ambition about an overview of and interaction between animal health research, it is necessary to map the research landscape in this field and prepare a detailed picture of the location of expertise, not least identify the possibility of an integration or coordination of existing educations (Masters and Ph.d.-schools).

Research priorities with generically qualities:
- Initiation of multinational harmonised data collection, epidemiological studies and reporting
during transborder disease outbreaks
- Development and usage of modelling for animal diseases and surveillance to promote scenarios
for control, including cost benefit analysis of the potential control measures.
- Initiation of research in sampling and survey methodologies, including risk-based
principles in disease monitoring or surveillance in order to secure a more focused use of resources,
by optimizing disease detection while rendering programmes more cost-effective.
- Foresight activities to identify coming challenges, including animal health questions related to
climate change, to the benefit of a European veterinary readiness.

Funding scheme: This idea is not necessarily synonymous with foundation of a one single main institution in Europe. By using the funding scheme of “network of excellence” and “collaborative project” in the work programmes in the 7th framework programme it is possible to support such initiatives.

Emerging diseases
This coordination mechanism could also be a suitable tool in relation to new, hard to predict form of spread of disease related to climate, environment and structural changes (ACTION PLAN for the implementation of the EU Animal Health Strategy, COM (2008) 545 final, p. 3), among these exotic diseases (“A new Animal Health Strategy for the European Union (2007-2013) where “Prevention is better than cure””, p.15). This monitoring of European animal research activities also permits that a specific surveillance of exotic diseases can be implemented according to need in a continuous risk assessment.

European and global added value
Easy access to and overview off animal health research in Europe could help avoid duplication and better exploitation of already existing research. The suggested coordinating capacity is also an applicable way for distribution of the latest research results (scientific papers and meetings, end user briefings, web-based solutions etc.). Obvious relevant end users at European level of the accumulated knowledge in this connection could be World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) (“A new Animal Health Strategy for the European Union (2007-2013) where “Prevention is better than cure”, p. 23). Furthermore this coordination body could help implement various OIE-strategies and standards in Europe.

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Posted on Aug 19, 2009
Endemic diseases
Basic idea
A European research effort on animal welfare threatening diseases in production animal with a special focus on endemic diseases.

The field of endemic diseases is particularly complex and characterized by an increasing diversity of mutual depending factors and causes. Risk factors for endemic diseases are related to trading patterns, increasing herd sizes , management practices and animal disease resistance. Consequently, traditional mono-disciplinary research related to endemic diseases and vaccines to cure or minimize these diseases is no longer enough to secure health and welfare. The extent and complexity of the problem is of principal interest to farmers and public authorities in Europe, but also consumers and politicians have an increased interest in the health status of food producing animals. The influence of the endemic diseases on animal welfare and production costs is unquestionable and plays an ongoing tread to the European animal food production. The Danish mirror group proposes a broader scientific approach to production animal health and welfare to fully address the complexity at the individual animal and farm-level. A closer surveillance of endemic diseases as they manifest themselves at the individual animal and farm-level may for instance help to optimize and target the use of antibiotics thereby diminishing the spread to other animals and threat of transfer of resistance from animals to people.

Possible research topics
From a scientific point of view endemic diseases must be addressed from a multi-disciplinary point of view if the purpose is to identify possible causes of diseases and intervention strategies to the same. Aspects like animal factors, immunity development, pathogenesis and epidemiology must be related to research areas like business and animal health economics, animal ethics and sociology. Further, we propose to use ‘welfare threatening diseases’ rather than ‘productions diseases’. A first useful step would also be to develop a common understanding of the term ‘welfare’, a process that might already be taken care of through other EU initiatives. It is necessary that such classification is able to transcend the apparent barrier between consumers and farmers thereby uniting the various perspectives on animal welfare into a shared European point of view. The report “A new Animal Health Strategy for the European Union (2007-2013)” asks for “both hard indicators of animal health (e.g. disease prevalence, number of animals eliminated) and softer indicators tracking the confidence, expectations and perceptions of European citizens” (p. 9). The suggested multi-disciplinary approach seems promising in providing such common and integrated indicators.

European added value
A common understanding in Europe on animal health and welfare should include hard and soft, positive and negative dimensions. This novel approach has the potential to provide very useful reflections and associations between cause and effect thereby; 1) improving future EU regulation; 2) health and welfare improving strategies and 3) improving future explicit standards and codes to the benefits of farmers and consumers. If provided we believe that documented animal health and welfare within a common framework of understanding these concepts will increase consumer confidence considerably. When trading young animals and breeding stock between regions in Europe it is of outmost importance that health and immune status of supplying and receiving herds are harmonized in order to prevent outbreaks of endemic diseases. The health and welfare of animals in large production systems should be in particular focus because of the clear tendency toward bigger production units. In general, larger production units are more effective and profitable than small units, but at the same time we acknowledge the fragility of larger production units in case of an outbreak of more serious diseases. Identification and implementation of health and welfare improving strategies will be necessary to control endemic diseases in food animal production.

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