Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization -
International Vaccine Centre

Development of a prion vaccine

Project Leaders: Scott Napper, Philip Griebel, Andrew Potter

The emergence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Canada threatens both wild and farmed cervid (deer and elk) populations. CWD has had a devastating impact on the farmed elk industry in Canada and the unabated spread of the disease through wild populations threatens a national resource of considerable economic benefit and national pride. In a worst case scenario, CWD may have zoonotic potential through consumption of infected cervids, or have the potential to be transmitted to cattle or wild caribou populations. While it is essential to control the spread of this disease, current disease management strategies to control prion diseases have proven ineffective. Due to this, novel strategies for disease control are required.

Vaccination has proven to be the most effective strategy for the control of infectious diseases in humans and animals. While the development of a prion vaccine is challenging due to the unique nature of the infectious agent, the misfolding of a self-protein into an infectious, pathological conformation, there is optimism and proof-of-principle evidence that immunotherapy, specifically pathological conformation specific immunotherapy, of prion disease is achievable. Research focused on identifying vaccine targets that are exposed upon disease-associated misfolding. Using these targets, a first generation injectable vaccine was developed, and in collaboration with the Pan-Provincial Vaccine Enterprise Inc. the vaccine candidate is under evaluation for immunogenicity and efficacy in elk. Further research is now focused on the development of an oral vaccine, which is anticipated to induce a greater immune response and be compatible for use as a wildlife vaccine.


  • Development of an oral CWD vaccine