Aquaculture is the future of sustainable food production, but every year, fish farmers face a crisis with managing disease, losing more than 4 million metric tons of sea food (worth approximately US 4 billion dollars). This staggering loss is enough to feed the entire population of Vietnam for an entire year. Vaccination is the most effective and sustainable way to prevent diseases, but the procedures are currently labor-intensive and only economically viable for high-value species, such as salmon or trout. There are very few vaccination strategies available for aquaculture farmers in developing nations who can't afford to hire professional labor and obtain cold-storage for these injectable vaccines. In response, these low-income farmers have no choice but to rely on the overuse of antibiotics, since the oral vaccines currently on the market are generally made up of materials which are not a natural part of the fish diet and consequently display poor digestibility and efficacy. The residues from these antibiotics end up leeching into the environment and degrading environmental water quality. Worse yet, the antibiotics take years to biodegrade and also end up in the food which the farmers sell to consumers, further accelerating the antibiotic resistance crisis.
We plan overcome the current challenges facing vaccination by bio-engineering microalgae to lock the vaccine inside the biomass. Microalgae are a natural part of the fish diet, and an essential dietary element in the early development of shrimp and other finfish. The microalgal oral vaccines can be mixed with fishmeal and fed to the fish, mimicking the natural feeding process. The natural digestion process of the fish unlocks the vaccine and triggers an immune response. In addition, because the vaccine is inside the microalgae chloroplast, it is protected by a rigid cell wall and is stable in harsh environmental conditions, extending the product’s shelf life. Such an approach is sustainable, user friendly for fish farmers, and cost effective. We believe this highly affordable product will substantially lower the barriers to vaccination for low-income farmers, and will help eliminate the use of antibiotics.
Aquaculture farmers lose over 4million metric tons of productivity due to viral and bacterial diseases each year.
Oral vaccination is a far more attractive option for farmers, but vaccines are typically not affordable in low-income countries.
Existing oral vaccines on the market display poor efficacy because they are not a natural part of the fish diet.
Microalgae can be engineered to deliver vaccines to fish, and since algae are a natural part of the fish diet, the fish has no issues with eating or digesting them.
Since the freeze-dried microalgal vaccine can remain stable at room temperature for years, then the technology will be easy to scale and deploy in developing nations.
Vaccines are typically expensive to manufacture and distribute, which limit their widespread deployment, especially in developing nations. Because our freeze-dried microalgal vaccines can be grown cheaply on a massive scale without the need for professional labor or cold-storage, we will be able to remove the barriers to wide-spread adoption of the technology. Our challenge will be conducting large-scale field-trials using our first functional prototype to prove that the technology is scalable and commercially feasible.
Our goal is to demonstrate that microalgae are a viable oral delivery system for fish and shrimp, and that with the right partnerships, they can be used to develop low-cost oral vaccines which can eliminate the need for professional labor or antibiotic use in the farm. We hope to partner with at least one large animal health company by the end of 2018 and work on at least 3-4 joint development projects simultaneously.
We need to secure Series A financing (at least 2 million euros) to complete the next phase of the project. We also need a veterinary advisor and a senior business development executive who has worked in the aquaculture animal vaccine industry.