University of Alberta and developing-country scientists awarded CA$1.3 M to fight infectious livestock diseases in Africa

EDMONTON, AB, June 20, 2012 /CNW/ - Scientists from the University of Alberta, led by Lorne Babiuk - this year's winner of the prestigious Canada Gairdner Wightman Award - have teamed up with researchers at the Agricultural Research Council in South Africa to develop a single, inexpensive, heat-resistant vaccine to protect cattle, sheep, and goats from five major diseases. A second vaccine to combat African Swine Fever is also being developed.

The CA$1.3 million project, announced today by Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), in co-operation with the University of Alberta, is one of six projects funded under the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF). CIFSRF, a five-year, CA$62 million initiative, brings Canadian and developing-country researchers together to produce lasting solutions to hunger and food insecurity in the developing world.

"Developing vaccines to reduce morbidity and mortality represents a great opportunity to increase food security and the economic well-being of families in Africa," said Babiuk, who also serves as the University of Alberta's vice-president of research. "This CIRSRF grant supports the development of a number of vaccines and has the potential to improve the economic circumstance of many livestock keepers, particularly women who rely heavily on small animals for their family's livelihood."

Infectious diseases are the single largest cause of financial losses to the agricultural livestock sector worldwide. Losses are even greater in sub-Saharan Africa where livestock production accounts for as much as 25% of some countries' national income. Because vaccines have been proven to be the most cost-effective method of disease control, this project tests the new vaccines and educates farmers on their importance and use.

"The vaccines will increase the availability of food, make production more reliable, and improve farmers' livelihoods, says IDRC President, David Malone. "In keeping with IDRC's commitment to practical research for development with the widest application possible, I am pleased that this novel vaccine delivery technology may be applied to other diseases as well."

"Canada is a world leader in the fight against hunger, and our partnership with IDRC plays a strong part in our efforts. Food and nutrition security remains a key priority of our government's development assistance," says Bev Oda, Minister of International Cooperation. "Our contribution to CIFSRF demonstrates Canadian leadership in assisting developing countries fight hunger through innovative practices and supports private sector growth in agriculture."

Today's funding announcement brings to 19 the number of projects supported under CIFSRF which includes researchers from 11 Canadian universities and 26 developing-country organizations. It also represents the third and final round of funding in the first phase of CIFSRF, a key component of the Government of Canada's Food Security Strategy, which the Prime Minister announced at the 2009 G-8 Meeting in L'Aquila, Italy.

Join in the conversation through Twitter #CIFSRF and Facebook.

For more information about CIFSRF, visit: www.idrc.ca/cifsrf.

About the University of Alberta:
The University of Alberta is one of Canada's top teaching and research universities, with an international reputation for excellence across the humanities, sciences, creative arts, engineering and health sciences. Home to more than 38,000 students and 15,000 faculty and staff, the university has an annual budget of more than $1.4 billion and attracts $498 million in external research funding. It offers close to 400 undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in 18 faculties on five campuses.

About IDRC:
A key part of Canada's aid program, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) supports research in developing countries to promote growth and development. IDRC also encourages sharing this knowledge with policymakers, other researchers, and communities around the world. The result is innovative, lasting local solutions that aim to bring choice and change to those who need it most.

About CIDA
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is Canada's lead agency for development assistance. CIDA's aim is to manage Canada's support and resources effectively and accountably to achieve meaningful, sustainable results. It also engages in policy development in Canada and internationally, enabling Canada's effort to realize its development objectives.

SOURCE International Development Research Centre

For further information:

University of Alberta: Bev Betkowski, media relations associate, University of Alberta
780-492-3808, bev.betkowski@ualberta.ca

For CIFSRF information: Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé / 1. 613.696.2343 / ibourgeault-tasse@idrc.ca


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