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Enhancing Veterinary Biotech Innovation in Thailand

Image credits: nstda.or.th

Researchers from Biotechnology Research and Development Institute of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (BIOTEC-NSTDA), King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT), the University of Kent, and University College London (UCL) have developed biotechnological products to improve animal health. The primary areas of focus for this partnership include the development of animal vaccines and biopharmaceuticals and utilising microalgal-based technology to control shrimp diseases.

According to Prof Dr Colin Robinson from the University of Kent, Thailand, along with other ASEAN countries, holds a significant position as a leading global food producer, particularly in the fields of aquaculture and livestock. As the global demand for food grows, effective animal health management has become crucial to ensure the long-term sustainability of the ASEAN region’s vital agricultural industry.

The shrimp industry in Thailand has experienced significant outbreaks of diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites, resulting in a staggering loss of up to 60% in production in the past ten years. These disease outbreaks have also adversely affected shrimp cultivation in neighbouring countries. Particularly, pathogens such as the white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) and yellow head virus (YHV) continue to cause extensive damage in Thailand’s eastern and southern regions.

To address this challenge, the University of Kent, UCL, and BIOTEC-NSTDA have collaborated on two projects that have led to development of a microalgal-based platform for controlling shrimp diseases.

Dr Vanvimon Saksmerprome, the BIOTEC Fish and Shrimp Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Research Team leader, has described the team’s achievement in developing microalgae that produce antiviral double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). This microalga is utilised as a feed supplement for shrimp, providing them with viral protection.

Through feed trials, it has been demonstrated that shrimp fed with this supplement exhibit a remarkable 70% survival rate when exposed to the white spot syndrome virus (WSSV). This breakthrough technology could assist shrimp farmers in Thailand and other ASEAN countries in effectively managing viral diseases affecting their shrimp populations.

Moreover, the swine industry in Thailand consists of more than 150,000 farms and has been consistently affected by viral diseases. While vaccination effectively prevents and controls these pathogens, most swine vaccines used in Thailand are imported. However, these imported vaccines are costly and may be less effective against local strains of viruses.

By seeing this backdrop, researchers also established cutting-edge facilities and technology for the affordable production of recombinant proteins for human biosimilars, swine vaccines, and biotherapeutics.

Dr Peera Jaruampornpan, the BIOTEC Virology and Cell Technology Research Team leader, reported significant progress in this research. The team has successfully developed a vaccine prototype for a specific subtype of porcine circovirus (PCV), known as PCV2d, and scaled up production to a 30-L scale.

Furthermore, ongoing research is being conducted to establish a production platform for recombinant interferon, which holds promise as a broad-spectrum veterinary therapeutic in the future.

In light of this, it is seen as a strategic step for ASEAN to engage in collaborative partnerships with developed nations such as the UK in research and technology transfer, allowing the region to strengthen its position in meeting the rising demands of the industry.

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