Human Antibodies in Cattle May Protect Us Against Disease

Jul 13, 2017

Credit Melissa Ullerich

Ag Innovation is the focus of a panel conversation during the Governor’s Ag Summit in Aberdeen. Other topics include animal health, economics and succession planning.  The annual event brings awareness to the economic potential of agriculture in South Dakota.

Jerry Pommer is the Chief Compliance Officer of SAb Biotherapeutics.  He says the company's research project, DiversitAb, uses genetically-designed cattle to produce human antibodies against global diseases.

"We have gone in and genetically engineered to knock out the cow's ability to produce bovine antibodies. And then we have gone in with what we call a human artificial chromosome. It's a genetically engineered chromosome with specific information on it that allows us to make human antibodies. So that particular chromosome will communicate with the cow so that she produces just human antibodies."

Pommer says the project could find an efficient solution to outbreaks like Ebola in Africa.

"Sometimes it takes up to three to six weeks before vaccines will really take effect in these people. So, by vaccinating these cows with Ebola virus, we can have antibodies that caregivers could be given. And they could almost go in right away within 24 hours to start treating and taking care of the patients."

Pommer says it’s important to prove ag technology's worth in business. He says keeping the public informed leads to acceptance of the technology.