PlantForm | Newsroom | PlantForm, AAFC researchers receive funding to develop vaccine for porcine epidemic diarrhea virus

PlantForm, AAFC researchers receive funding to develop vaccine for porcine epidemic diarrhea virus

Three-year project supported by Swine Innovation Porc advances collaboration aimed at protecting piglets with inexpensive, effective edible vaccine

TORONTO, Canada, June 17, 2024 – Canadian biopharmaceutical company PlantForm Corporation announced new funding from the Canadian Swine Research and Development Cluster (CSRDC) to support research and collaboration with scientists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to develop an inexpensive and effective oral vaccine that protects swine herds against porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv).

The project leverages PlantForm’s vivoXPRESS® plant-based manufacturing platform, and technology developed by AAFC researcher Dr. Rima Menassa to deliver an oral, plant-expressed vaccine against PEDv. The vaccine is designed to be delivered as a feed additive given to pregnant sows, enabling the transfer of protective antibodies to piglets via sow milk.

The three-year, $341,600 project is part of the Swine Innovation Porc (SIP) Swine Cluster 4 Research program, funded in part by the Government of Canada under the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s AgriScience Program - Cluster Component.

The CSRDC (also known as Swine Innovation Porc) will provide nearly 50 per cent of the funding through AAFC for the project, with PlantForm contributing the rest in cash and in-kind services.

“We’re proud to be part of the ongoing effort to protect animal health and support Canadian agriculture by developing the world’s first effective and inexpensive plant-made vaccine against this devastating disease in pigs,” said Dr. Don Stewart, PlantForm President and CEO.

PEDv is a serious and highly contagious swine disease that leads to almost 100% mortality in suckling pigs, although it poses no threat to humans and is not a food safety issue. Common in Europe and Asia since the 1970s, PEDv is relatively recent in North America. In the United States, eight million pigs died in a one-year epidemic after PEDv was first detected in 2013. The virus has since found its way to Canada.

While PEDv is almost always lethal for nursing piglets, protection can be provided by maternal antibodies passed on through sow’s milk. Although more than half of older pigs exposed to the virus recover, the illness weakens these surviving pigs and reduces productivity; therefore, preventing PEDv infection is a top priority for the global swine industry. Current vaccines are expensive to make and only partially effective.

The project builds upon work supported by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s Agri Science Program – Cluster Component from 2018-2023.

It combines PlantForm’s transient protein expression know-how with technology developed by Dr. Menassa for a plant-made subunit vaccine that uses parts of the PEDV antigen best suited to inducing an immune response.

These virus-like particles (VLPs) are considered excellent vaccine candidates because while they resemble the virus protein structure, they are non-pathogenic and can be administered orally without an adjuvant to boost immune response.

The goal is to develop vaccine candidates that can be freeze-dried and encapsulated for convenient transportation and storage, allowing farmers to easily add the vaccine to their animals’ feed. PlantForm intends to license the PEDv vaccine to international animal health companies.

“Most, if not all, of the vaccines currently available or in advanced trials are produced using mammalian cell culture methods and they’re injectable — making them inherently expensive compared to an oral plant-made vaccine,” Stewart said. “Plus, production cycles are much faster using the vivoXPRESS® system, which is also more flexible, allowing us to respond quickly to new strains of the virus. This is very important because PEDv is a coronavirus, and we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that coronaviruses can mutate very quickly.”

About PlantForm Corporation (
PlantForm Corporation is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the low-cost production of high-value antibody and protein drugs and vaccines using the proprietary vivoXPRESS® plant-based manufacturing platform. The vivoXPRESS® plant expression system produces biologic drugs and vaccines at a significantly reduced cost compared to standard mammalian cell systems. The platform is fast (drug production in as little as six weeks), versatile and easily scalable. PlantForm’s pipeline features other animal health products, an innovative antidote to ricin exposure, and biosimilar versions of the brand name biologic drugs Lucentis® and Keytruda®. Learn more.


For more information, please contact:

Don Stewart
President and CEO, PlantForm Corp.
+1 416-452-7242

Stacey Curry Gunn
Director of Communications, PlantForm Corp.
+1 519-827-1131

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