Norwegian-Indian research project on the development of new fish vaccines

Date of publication : 4/11/2008
Together with the Norwegian College of Fishery Science, NOFIMA, the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Bodø Regional College and the vaccine company PHARMAC AS, the Institute of Marine Research has been awarded NOK 44 million for a major Norwegian-Indian research project that aims to develop new vaccines for fish and shrimp. The project will run for four years and the consortium will collaborate with seven extremely competent Indian research institutions.

The cooperative project aims to identify and characterise antigens in important disease-producing organisms (bacteria and viruses) in fish and shrimp and to develop effective preventive treatments for them. The project expects to supply new vaccine concepts for the Norwegian and Indian aquaculture industries.

The immune system and viruses

“The cooperative project that has just been funded is a continuation of a project on which we have been working here at the Institute of Marine Research, in which we have been looking at how the halibut’s immune system reacts to infections”,  says scientist Audun H. Nerland. Researchers are already well under way with mapping the immune system in halibut and cod and have done a great deal of work on nodaviruses, which have posed a challenge to aquaculture in both India and Norway. By vaccinating fish and studying the reaction of the immune system, they have been able to develop vaccines by employing molecular biological methods. The experience gained in the course of this work will be important for the Norwegian-Indian cooperative project which is now being launched, and which will focus on salmon, halibut, cod and shrimp.

Disease at the root of serious losses

Viruses are the cause of the most costly diseases in Norwegian and Indian aquaculture today, and they can neither be prevented nor treated with antibiotics. This means that it is vital to develop vaccines, and the cooperative project will develop such vaccines for diseases of fish that are causing problems in Norway and India, with particular focus on infectious pancreatic necrosis (IPN) and viral nervous necrosis (VNN) which is caused by nodavirus, in fish, and white-spot syndrome virus in shrimp. The project will also develop vaccines against pathological variants of the Aeromonas, Edwardsiella and Vibrio bacteria.

Norwegian-Indian collaboration

The Norwegian side of the project is being financed by the Research Council of Norway and will be shared by research teams at Fiskeriforskning (now known as NOFIMA) in Tromsø, the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen, the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science in Oslo, Bodø Regional College and PHARMAQ in Oslo for a period of four years. The Norwegian College of Fishery Science at the University of Tromsø is responsible for the project.

The Indian research institutes are extremely competent in developing vaccines for human medicine, but have little experience of the development and use of vaccines in aquaculture. The Norwegian and Indian research groups will therefore complement each other, and the exchange of knowledge between the two areas will be an important part of the collaboration. PHARMAQ AS is the only industrial partner in the project, and this company will contribute its expertise in vaccine development in cooperation with the Indian and Norwegian participants. The project is receiving a similar amount of financial support from the Indian authorities.
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