USDA grants license to Harrisvaccines

Jessica Drendel

The USDA has recently granted Harrisvaccines with a one-of-a-kind license for the company’s platform producing the vaccines it sells.

The license has taken 10 years of work, said Joel Harris, head of sales and marketing, who spoke about the process the company went through to gain this approval.

“My father approached the USDA with an idea to approve the technology for these vaccines instead of the products themselves,” he said.

One of the biggest problems that Harrisvaccines faced when getting the license was that there was no precedent. This is the first time a process like this has been approved.

The now-licensed platform was used to develop a vaccine for the porcine academic diarrhea virus (PEDv), which has been affecting swine operations across the country and killed more than 8 million piglets since the epidemic began in 2013.

The process was also used to come up with the vaccine against H5 avian influenza.

“Last year, Harrisvaccines was acquired by Merck Animal Health, part of Merck Pharmaceuticals,” Harris said. “This makes it easier for the vaccine to be spread globally instead of just in the United States. The technology can be spread and let internationally and brought to their markets.”

One of the biggest wins for the platform was that it was used in the development of the PEDv virus.

“What PDE does is like the flu in humans,” said Ed Arndt, a swine producer. “It has the same symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea) but the piglets die within 24 hours. Sows take four weeks to build up an immunity to the virus, which they passed on to the piglets. So basically for four weeks, you have a 100 percent death loss.” 

This is basically the equivalent of losing a month’s profit from a year’s production.

PEDv can be spread by just about anything. A neighbor down the road could have it and bring it in on his truck tires, it could be blown through the ventilation from downwind and dirty shoes of the farmer from an affected farm could also spread the virus.

Harris hopes the platform will help spread vaccines for new epidemics in a timely manner. They try to stay on top of the diseases that enter the United States. 

All of the vaccines that Harrisvaccines makes with this platform must be prescribed by a vet. Harrisvaccines works closely with vets and clients to develop herd-specific vaccines and variations.