Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation Approves Funding for new EHV-1 and EHM Vaccine Research

The goal of this project is to develop a vaccine that will cross-protect horses against multiple types of equine herpesvirus.
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The evaluation will describe the HMA’s history, condition of riparian areas based on functional assessments, and vegetative trends based on rangeland health assessments. | Photo: iStock
Considering the series of major outbreaks of equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) and its sequel equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM) in North America and Europe over the past decade, the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation issued a special call for research proposals to address the issue. 

EHV-1 and EHM are highly contagious, and continue to cause significant economic losses through closures of racetracks and sales barns, delays in training schedules, and severe disease and death of horses. 

After a thorough review process by the foundation’s veterinarian advisory committee, two research proposals were selected for funding. The projects, led by Gisela Soboll Hussey, DVM, MS, PhD, of Michigan State University, and Bettina Wagner, DVM, DrMedVet, of Cornell University, aim to develop novel nucleic acid vaccines to protect horses from EHV-1/EHM and EHV-4. 

Soboll Hussey’s project is titled “Use of nucleic acid vaccines to protect from EHV-1/EHM” and will last three years. Her objective is to develop a novel mRNA-based EHV vaccine that protects horses from EHV-1 myeloencephalopathy, a method that will likely cross-protect horses against other types of equine herpesviruses. 

Wagner’s project, titled “A novel DNA vaccine platform to control EHV-1 and EHV-4,” will span two years and aims to develop an effective DNA vaccine for EHV-1 to protect horses against infection and disease, working to prevent catastrophic EHV outbreaks in the future. 

Total funding for the projects of $1,885,436 was provided by special donor Dr. John Ballantyne and Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation. “I am excited to support these important research efforts to combat the devastating impact of EHV-1 on equine health,” Dr. Ballantyne said. 

Dell Hancock, chairman of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, added, “The work of our research advisory committee is timely and essential. We look forward to working with these institutions to develop these vaccines and protect the equine industry from the devastating effects of EHV-1 and EHM.” 

Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation is traditionally the nation’s leading source of private funding for equine medical research that benefits all breeds of horses. Since 1940, the foundation has provided more than $40 million to fund more than 426 projects at 45 universities in North America and overseas. Additional information about the foundation is available at grayson-jockeyclub.org. 

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