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The University of Arizona has secured $4.8 million in federal money to fund a canine vaccine against valley fever.
The live vaccine was invented by UA fungal geneticist Marc Orbach, is called delta-CPS1. It is a mutant sport that has already protected mice from valley fever.
The grant from the National Institutes of Health is for four years and could bring the vaccine to market for dogs in five years, said Dr. John Galgiani, who is director of the UA's Valley Fever Center for Excellence.
Though the vaccine will be initially targeted to dogs, it could eventually be effective for humans, too.
There is no prevention or cure for valley fever, also known as coccidioidomycosis. An estimated 30,000 people and 60,000 dogs in Arizona get sick from valley fever every year. The disease is found mainly in dusty areas of Arizona and California. State health officials say it caused the deaths of 54 people in Arizona last year.
"It's a strategic decision to go to dogs first," Galgiani said. "We will see if harmful for dogs, see if it works...It will make the momentum to go to humans that much stronger."
A canine vaccine would go through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Veterinary Biologics to get to market, while a human vaccine would need to go through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval. The FDA is generally a slower path, experts say.
The NIH funding comes from its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
"This reflects the scientific validity of our plans," said Galgiani, who will be the principal investigator of the grant. "The funds will greatly accelerate the vaccine’s development."