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2016 BIO Animal Biotech Summit Day One Highlights

September 26, 2016
BIO concluded its 2016 Animal Biotech Summit on Friday, September 23, 2016. BIO chose “One Health” as the theme of this year’s conference. “One Health” is the notion that the health of animals, the health of people, and the viability of ecosystems are inextricably linked.

Day #1 Session Topics specifically focused on Animal Health & Welfare and Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Bernadette Dunham, DVM, PhD, Visiting Professor at Milken Institute School of
Public Health at George Washington University, kicked off the Summit with an introductory look into what is "One Health."

"The concept of One Health is not really new, considering the fact that 2500 years ago it was Hippocrates who 'urged physicians to consider where their patients lived, the foods they ate and waters they drank, their lifestyles, and the seasons of the year.'"

She continued by stating that nearly 74 percent of all emerging human infectious disease in the past three decades originated in animals. In her remarks, Dr. Dunham introduced the audience to the work of the “One Health” Commission.

On Wednesday, May 18, 2016, Dr. Bernadette Dunham delivered a "One Health" lecture at the Library of Congress. Watch it here.

Scott Holmstrom, PhD, Senior Director, Regulatory Affairs & Global Capabilities at Elanco Animal Health, was first to present during the Animal Health & Welfare Session. Dr. Holmstrom's remarks focused on how the “One Health” approach can be used to combat antibiotic resistance.

He commented that there are two paths to antibiotic resistance – spontaneous mutation and selective pressure. Dr. Holmstrom argued that in the epidemiology of antimicrobial resistance there is a clear link between human and animal.

So how is animal biotech a solution to antibiotic resistance? First, the diversity of problems breed diversity of solutions argued Holmstrom. With the speed of development, biotech can allow us to better target species and have direct evaluations of safety and effectiveness.

Alison Van Eenennaam, PhD, Cooperative Extension Specialist Animal Genomics and Biotechnology at University of California, Davis continued the session with a discussion on how biotech can be utilized to improve animal welfare. She argued that genetic improvement can be can be considered as a solution to animal welfare issues over that of chemicals. She focused on three examples:

  1. The Rosalin's Institute's GM Chickens That Don't Transmit Bird Flu

  2. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's work to Treat African Sleeping Sickness And Leishmaniasis with Transgenic Mice

  3. Cattle Being Made Hornless Through Genetic Editing

Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam concluded her remarks by calling for a serious discussion on how biotech can truly improve animal health and welfare and how our regulatory system needs to adapt to new technologies.

Matt Carr, PhD, Executive Director of the Algal Biomass Organization concluded the Animal Health & Welfare Session by discussing the applications of algae in animal feed. Dr. Carr referenced a study co-authored by Brian J. Walsh titled "New feed sources key to ambitious climate targets". The study looked at how using microalgae as a feedstock to free up to 2 billion hectares of land currently used for pasture and feed crops can lead to a reduction in greenhouse gases.

His talked focused on similar concepts presented in the study which is that "phototropic microalgae production systems can potentially generate enough biomass to satisfy a large fraction of future global energy demand without shifting burdens onto forest or agricultural systems."

Programming for the second half of Day #1 focused on Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases.

Eddie Sullivan, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of SAB Biotherapeutics, Inc. kicked off the session with a personal touch on how SAB Biotherapeutics came to be the company that it is today.

SAB’s vision for emerging infectious disease is that its transchromosomic (Tc) bovine platform can rapidly develop target specific human polyclonal antibodies to tackle a variety of infectious diseases. Dr. Sullivan concluded that he works to find cures to some of world's deadliest diseases so that families don't have to undergo similar experiences as he has.

Read here the recent news from SAB - their technology is really like no other.

James Cummings, MD, Senior Director, Clinical Development at Novavax continued the session by arguing that in order to get a hold around infectious disease, we need to have a strong baseline bio-surveillance network.
"We need to look at our bio-surveillance network as an investment and not an expense."

Dr. Cummings provided an overview of Novavax's Zaire Ebola/Makona virus glycoprotein (GP) nanoparticle Vaccine. More information on the vaccine can be found here.

Hadyn Parry, Chief Executive Officer of Oxitec, discussed how his company engineered the world's deadliest animal, the mosquito, to fight itself in order to tackle such infectious diseases as Zika and the chikungunya virus. OX513A is a "self-limiting strain of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Males, which do not bite or transmit disease, are released to mate with wild females. The offspring of such matings die before becoming adults." In 2013, Hadyn Perry delivered a TED Talk titled "Re-engineering mosquitoes to fight disease."

Dennis Carroll, PhD, Director, Global Health Security and Development Unit at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) concluded the Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases Session. You may know Dr. Carroll from his appearance in the recent PBS segment Spillover — Zika, Ebola & Beyond.

Dr. Dennis Carroll talks about the Global Virome Project and the beginning of the end of the Pandemic Era:

  1. In the 21st century zoonotic disease emergence is accelerating – driven by population growth and impact on the environment.

  2. The world however is ill prepared to face these threat.

  3. Our capacity to deploy effective “counter measures” is limited by what we “don't know” about future threats.

  4. The Global Virome Project can within 10 years discover 99% of the planets viral threats.

  5. Advances in diagnostics, analytics and bioinformatics will be key to maximizing the impact of GVP on human and animal health.

Dr. Carroll recently submitted a guest blog to the World Affairs highlighting the Global Virome Project.