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Brookings lab develops COVID-19 vaccine for pets

Published: Oct. 7, 2020 at 5:25 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to infect humans worldwide, a South Dakota company says they have produced a COVID-19 vaccine, for animals.

Medgene Labs in Brookings, says America is home to around 90 million house cats which are a species that COVID-19 has tested positive in, and a vaccine they created could slow the spread.

Medgene Labs is the first and only federally-licensed vaccine facility in South Dakota. The lab usually provides vaccines and services to livestock producers and veterinarians, but since the start of the pandemic, they’ve been working on something new, a COVID-19 vaccine for pets.

“We currently have a vaccine target made for companion animals, and we are currently in the stage of needing to do further studies to prove safety for that vaccine candidate,” said Medgene Labs VP of Corporate Development and Strategy Sue Lancaster.

“The next stage that we are at is to actually look in the animal models themselves, either cats or mink, and look for protection. We’re working with agencies and universities that have the containment facilities to do that,” added Dr. Alan Young, Medgene Labs Chief Technology Officer.

Medgene Labs says they believe they are one of only a few labs in the nation focusing on the animal component of this new virus. Studies have shown that COVID-19 can infect companion animals, and there has been evidence of animal-to-human transmission.

“Cats, ferrets, and mink have shown to be susceptible to the disease. To date, there has been very clear transmission from humans to cats, we haven’t yet seen transmission from cats back to humans with the current strain that’s circulating. We have on the other hand seen it with mink,” Young said.

Medgene staff adds that viruses can always change and evolve, and preventing pet to human infections is their focus.

Young added, “For example, if you have the Coronavirus and you give it to your pet cat; they may quarantine you but they don’t quarantine your pet cat. The concern is that your pet cat can then transmit it back to other individuals.”

A large part of completing the vaccine process is funding, and if that comes Medgene Labs could produce enough vaccines for pets across the U.S.

“Currently we have 48 million dose capacity in our production facility, and if we get an infusion of funding, we’d look to expand that capacity to 250 million doses,” said Lancaster.

If all goes correctly with testing and funding, this vaccine could be ready to protect pets nationwide in 2021.

Copyright 2020 Dakota News Now. All rights reserved.

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