Our next interview guest from the Congress last month is Genvax Technologies’ CEO and Co-Founder, Joel Harris. Joel joined us at the Congress for a presentation and a panel in the Veterinary track. We were glad to sit down with him to learn more about the approaches that Genvax is taking to the challenges of animal health. We hope that you enjoy the interview!
Joel is the CEO and Co-Founder of Genvax Technologies, an animal vaccine company based in Iowa in the US.
“We’re bringing a messenger RNA platform to animal health.”
Animal health challenges
Joel and his team are trying to bring innovation to the animal health industry, so we asked about any challenges that this might present. Although the market is smaller than the human health market, Joel emphasises its importance, “especially in the One Health mentality”. He offers the insight that 70% of diseases are zoonotic.
From a US perspective, a big challenge is “bridging the gap” between FDA regulations and USDA regulations. Although there are differences and complications involved, Joel believes that collaborators should try to understand them.
“It’s just as important, if not more (I think), than some of the human health applications.”
The benefits of saRNA
After our experiences with mRNA platforms during the pandemic, we might be familiar with the idea that “they can be very costly”. Therefore, self-amplifying, or saRNA, is a useful alternative as it “allows you to have a smaller dose” particularly for livestock vaccines.
“Having a technology that can have the benefits and the robustness of messenger RNA but the cost-matching could be really beneficial to the industry.”
Why does this matter?
Animal vaccines make sense from an animal perspective, but why should we all be more interested in animal health? As Joel has mentioned already, a One Health view encourages us to invest more in animal health, but he also suggests that there are demonstrable economic benefits. For example, avian influenza and African Swine Fever are “disrupting” food security.
“It’s a public health issue but it’s also an ag-economical or food supply chain issue as well.”
Joel mentioned the importance of sustainability in his previous answer, which led nicely into a question on how sustainability factors into the work he does. At Genvax, vaccines are considered a “great alternative to antibiotics” and the dangers associated with over-dependence on antibiotics.
“It’s a balance, taking kind of the novel, or the newer approaches to livestock production, but not forgetting how we developed agriculture over the last 10,000 years and kind of getting back to more of an equilibrium.”
Joining us in DC
Our final question was about what Joel was looking forward to at the event. Apart from his presentation and panel, he was excited to return to the Congress after a long time!
“I’m excited to meet people, meet some of our collaborators.”
It was a pleasure to meet Joel and hear his insights into some of the big concerns of the veterinary track. For more information on the Congress last month, download the post-event report here. To get interviews like this sent to your inbox, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.