Mazen Animal Health Gains Patent for Oral Animal Vaccine Technology


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Mazen Animal Health, an Iowa-based agricultural biotechnology company with a new research-and-development center in Research Triangle Park, has received a patent for its technology to produce orally delivered animal vaccines.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent covering foundational technology for the company’s first product, a vaccine against porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), a coronavirus that infects the small intestines of pigs, causing severe diarrhea and dehydration. PEDV is highly contagious and can wipe out herds of newborn piglets and slow down weight gain in sows.

The antigen for the vaccine, grown in genetically modified corn and then mixed into corn feed, will be dosed to sows during gestation, providing immunity to their piglets through breast milk. The vaccine is anticipated for commercial launch in 2024.

“This initial patent marks a major milestone for the company, allowing us to protect our products as we move forward with our game-changing, unique approach to animal vaccines,” said Jennifer Filbey, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Mazen. “We anticipate this is the first in many patents to come.”

Corn plants as vaccine factories

The patent builds on an established portfolio covering the underlying recombinant DNA technology developed by John Howard, Ph.D., an expert in recombinant protein production in plants and one of the company’s founders. Mazen holds an exclusive license to the platform for use in animal health.

The technology involves inserting into corn plant cells the genes that code for the production of antigens – the proteins that give vaccines their protective power against infectious diseases. The antigens are expressed in the corn’s kernels.

The vaccine-laden corn is ground, dried and blended with regular feed corn to the desired dose, and then fed to animals.

Giving oral vaccines to livestock and companion animals offers several advantages when compared to the standard practice of manually injecting vaccines using syringes.

There is no stress to the animal, no risk of broken needles and no accidental jabs to technicians. Cold-chain handling and storage of vaccines is not required, and less labor is involved, saving time and money.

Growing footprint in North Carolina

Headquartered in Ames, Iowa, Mazen recently selected North Carolina for its R&D operations and leased office, lab and greenhouse space at Alexandria LaunchLabs in Research Triangle Park in January.

Mazen hired a leader and two scientists to work at the R&D site, with more personnel to be added this year, Filbey said. The hires brought the company’s total staff count to 10.

Mazen’s expansion into North Carolina was highlighted in a company profile published in January.

Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer
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