Genome Prairie


New vaccines to fight disease in cattle

This project aims to develop vaccines against two important infectious diseases of cattle, Johne’s disease and bovine tuberculosis. Infections are a leading cause of sickness and death in cattle, causing direct economic losses to producers and even more serious losses associated with international trade restrictions (as seen with mad cow disease) and decreased public confidence in food quality. Infectious diseases also pose a risk to human health if they are transferred to people. The most effective way to prevent infectious disease in animals such as cattle is vaccination. Lack of effective vaccines for some diseases contributes to the overuse of antibiotics and to a strategy of slaughtering infected animals, which has come under increasing public scrutiny.

Dr. Andrew Potter of VIDO-InterVac, University of Saskatchewan and Dr. Robert Hancock of the University of British Columbia are leading a team taking a "reverse vaccinology" approach to preventing infectious diseases in cattle. This approach uses genomic technology to screen large numbers of bacterial proteins simultaneously to identify those that have properties that can stimulate a protective immune response in cattle. These proteins then form the basis for developing novel vaccines and immunization strategies. The team will focus on two common cattle diseases, bovine tuberculosis, a debilitating disease that can spread to man and other domestic and wild animals, and Johne’s Disease, a gastrointestinal disease, developing and bringing to market vaccines for these costly diseases within two years’ of the project’s end. The team will also develop companion diagnostics that will differentiate vaccinated from infected animals.

The team’s work will ultimately increase productivity and profitability for cattle producers and increase public confidence by reducing the use of slaughter or antibiotics to control infections. It will also enhance Canada’s reputation as a major Agrifood producer. The annual financial impact of the vaccines is estimated to be around $100 million, with international sales of a further $400 million.


Quick Facts

Project Leaders:

Andrew Potter, VIDO-InterVac, University of Saskatchewan

Robert Hancock, University of British Columbia

Project Manager:

Elodie Pastural, University of Saskatchewan

Susan Farmer, University of British Columbia

Co-Lead Centres:

Genome Prairie

Genome British Columbia

Project Value:

$7.4 Million




Genome Canada Contribution:

$2.9 Million

Funding Partners Contribution:


Genome British Columbia

Total: $4.4 Million

Project Status:

Ongoing (2015-2019)


Genome Canada 2014 Large Scale Applied Research Project Competition