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E. Coli Vaccine Maker Eyes Government Support

A Canadian biotech company has developed a vaccine for cattle that prevents them from shedding E. coli in their manure, and its CEO now hopes the Canadian and U.S. governments will help spread the vaccine to combat the threat posed by E. coli contamination in beef.

In an interview with CTV News, Bioniche Life Sciences CEO Graeme McRae said that while the cost of his company’s vaccine is currently too expensive for farmers to buy, a public health investment in the product would save hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

E. coli illnesses cost the Canadian medical system more than $200 million a year, but vaccinating every cow in the country would cost less than $50 million. From an economic perspective, government support of the vaccine is a “no-brainer,” he said.

Currently, the Bioniche vaccine is approved for sale in Canada and available for commercial use in small quantities. With government support, McRae said, they could produce at a much larger scale.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has still not approved the vaccine, though the company was told in 2008 that it was eligible for a conditional license to sell in the U.S.

McRae told CTV that the company develops a range of technology beyond the E. coli vaccine: They are working on a treatment for bladder cancer in humans, and this summer they will launch a product to treat cancer in dogs.

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