On June 9 at World Pork Expo 2022 in Des Moines, IA, Dr. Rick Sibbel, with Mazen Animal Health, announced his company is getting closer to completing development of a novel vaccine that would be produced in corn and administered through animal feed.
"My company is doing something that has never been done," said Sibbel during the Bacon & Innovation panel discussion at WPX.
"We've talked about it for 20 years, but it's never been done," he said. "We figured out through plant biology and immunology how to put protective antigens in the germ cell of corn, grow the corn, grind the corn and feed it to the pigs."
Transformative vaccine technology
Vaccination of livestock prevents disease and decreases losses. Injectable vaccination, however, can be costly and difficult to administer, said Mazen.
The company said this is why it is now developing a product that offers transformative vaccine technology where the animals don’t even know they are being vaccinated.
By administering the vaccine with feed, challenges associated with finding labor to administer injectable vaccines and other issues such as broken needles in the animal or accidental vaccination of the worker are eliminated. Oral vaccines allow for cost-effective disease prevention with improved animal welfare.
Mazen’s oral vaccines are produced via recombinant protein production in corn. The technology platform leverages many years of breakthrough R&D led by John Howard, Mazen co-founder and an expert in recombinant protein production in plants.
The vaccines developed using this technology promise to be substantially more cost-effective and convenient than traditional injectable vaccines for livestock and companion animals.
"This technology can help achieve better animal health through disease prevention – rather than treatment – and improve economics, stewardship and sustainability," said Jenny Filbey, CEO of Mazen.
First vaccine designed for PEDv
Sibbel noted during the panel discussion that Mazen's s lead oral vaccine in development is for the prevention of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv).
The PEDv vaccine is currently undergoing pivotal efficacy studies required for USDA approval. The company is also scaling up commercial manufacture of the vaccine.
"We're going to feed that vaccine to pregnant females who are going to nurse the pigs and protect the pigs against PEDv," said Sibbel. "That sounds a little bit like Star Wars, doesn't it?"
Mazen’s pipeline has advanced with ongoing proof-of-concept studies for coccidiosis in poultry and a third proprietary product in development, also for poultry.
The Series A funds will be used to support launch of the PEDv product, development of pipeline products, addition of new products to the pipeline, as well as adding new members to the team.
Vaccine 'about a year away'
Sibbel said the industry will have to wait about a year before the product is ready.
"We're really the first company doing this," he said. "It's very exciting. We've been successful at digestive enzymes. We've been successful at protective antibodies. We've looked at fungal antibodies, we looked at bacterial antigens, fungal antigens -- this this technology is very novel and amazing."
Sibbel said Mazen is about 18 months into a 2 1/2-year program to get its first license, "and everything is on track."
Partnership with Kent Corp.
Mazen's business plan to get the vaccine to market includes an exclusive partnership with Kent Corp.
"We've been partners now in this space for about eight or nine months," said Sibbel. "Kent is our one of our distribution and marketing partners. They bring a lot to the table."
Mazen announces $11M funding acquisition
On May 25, Mazen announced it had closed a Series A round of over $11 million.
The round was led by Fall Line Capital and joined by all the Seed investors, including Next Level Ventures, Kent Corp., Ag Startup Engine, Ag Ventures Alliance, ISAV and Summit Ag.
In addition, new investors, AgFunder, 1330 Investments, Addison Laboratories, SLO Seeds Ventures and Cal Poly Ventures also participated in the financing.
“I am thrilled to have Fall Line Capital lead our Series A round. They believe in our experienced team and transformational technology – and share our vision for aggressive growth”, said Filbey.
“I am also delighted to have all our Seed investors continue to support us both financially and in the community. We have a great group of investors.”
Eric O’Brien, co-founder and managing director of Fall Line Capital said Mazen is at the forefront of molecular farming technologies that leverage plants as natural production factories for recombinant proteins and other high-value molecules.
"This novel approach has huge advantages in cost versus precision fermentation in expensive bioreactors or more traditional vaccine production methods," said O'Brien.
"We are excited to partner with Mazen as they pioneer a whole new category of sustainable technologies in animal health.”