BLACKSBURG, VA. – Researchers at Virginia Tech are developing vaccines to combat the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv).

The project received a four-year $630,00 grant from the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Mike Zhang, PhD, is the principal investigator and works as a professor at Virginia Tech’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering. The co-principal investigator will be XJ Meng, PhD, who works as a university distinguished professor of molecular virology in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. He also serves as a professor of internal medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

“This project will give us the opportunity not only to development a vaccine for swine, but gain insight into coronaviruses,” Zhang said. “While the viruses are different from each other, they share a lot of similarities. A lot of things that we learn from this project can be used to develop vaccines against human coronaviruses in the future.”

With the combination of nanotechnology and immunology insight, the researchers targeted this delivery platform to develop nanoparticles displaying viral proteins as a vaccine candidate. The nanoparticle allows the researchers to put molecular adjuvant inside the particle, allowing it to become more potent.

This platform has been used for other vaccines, and the researchers thought that because of that success, it could be used for PEDv vaccines.

Early estimates are showing that the initial shot could last as long as six months with a booster needed to complete the vaccine series.

PEDv cases discovered in the United States in 2013 and 2014 had devastating results, including the cull of millions of animals and elevated pricing of products.