ILVAC – planting the orchard – an ILRI livestock initiative

The problem: Infectious livestock diseases feature prominently among the constraints that impede livestock agriculture. Vaccines can reduce the high rates of livestock mortality and morbidity, and they are the most effective inventions for disease control, especially in under-resourced agricultural systems. However, low levels and variable investment in research and development contributes to neglect of many animal disease constraints, including those that directly affect human health, e.g., zoonoses and food safety.

Estimates of some livestock disease burdens:

  • African swine fever (ASF): Threatens the global $150 billion/year pig industry.
  • Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP): East Africa regional losses to CBPP amount to ~ $60 million/year.
  • East Coast fever (ECF): eastern Africa regional losses ex­ceed $300 million/year; kills ~ 1 million cattle/year.
  • Peste des petits ruminants (PPR): Losses in Kenya amount to ~ $13 million/year.
  • Rift Valley fever (RVF): 2006/7 outbreak in Kenya cost ~ $30 million; 309 human cases in Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania; 140 deaths.

Vaccine- and diagnostics-based solutions: The goal of ILVAC, ILRI’s livestock health initiative, is to build a hub of research excellence dedicated to developing vaccine-based solutions to reduce disease burdens that limit livestock productivity in smallholder and pastoral farming systems. Diagnostic tools are critical components in building evidence on the burden of diseases, and in designing disease control strategies, such as biosecurity measures, and in deployment of vaccines, through epidemiological and modelling studies.

New science, new opportunities: Paradigm shifts in science, underpinned by whole genome sequence information, high throughput screening methods and informatics now enable acceleration of the pace of research by adopting a holistic approach to vaccine, diagnostics and therapeutics development.


A focused approach: ILVAC with several partners is initially focusing on a set of priority diseases: African swine fever (ASF), contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP),  contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP), East Coast fever (ECF) and peste des petits ruminants (PPR).  The creation of a research platform, where generic techniques and processes are implemented, gives us the ability to tackle other disease constraints, e.g., food and mouth disease (FMD). Research on malignant catarrhal fever (MCF) and Rift Valley fever (RVF) is driven by contract-research-type collaborations.ILVACNew generation vaccines, a risky but high-reward venture: This research is complex in nature and requires long-term investments. Several lead vaccine molecules for CBPP, and ECF have been identified, while research on ASF is just starting, and that on PPR and RVF has progressed to field studies.

Achieving impact: To meet its objectives and achieve impact in the discovery to delivery pathway ILVAC works with the CGIAR Research Programs, as well as national and regional academic, public, private and development sectors. ILVAC’s comparative advantage is in the early phase of this pathway. Vaccines will also lower the indiscriminate use of antimicrobial drugs, thereby lowering the risk of antimicrobial resistance.marketAfrica-specific questions:

  • How do we stimulate and sustain a modern biotech sector?
  • How can we grow a GMP certified vaccine manufacturing sector?
  • How do we fund development of a product with a small market size?

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