I am CSO and Founder of The Vaccine Group (TVG), Ltd. The mission of TVG is to make the world a safer place by designing high-quality, effective animal vaccines to control existing and emerging infectious diseases in animals and the people they infect, both at a local and global scale. The aim is to do this in a socially responsible fashion, adopting business strategies that are both financially sustainable and financially accessible: the perfect vaccine is not only one that works well, but is also one that is used.
The TVG strategy is to develop herpesvirus-based vaccine platforms for use in animals to protect them against infectious disease. These diseases include both economically important agricultural diseases, such as bovine tuberculosis in cattle and African swine fever in pigs, as well as zoonotic diseases that are transferred from animals to humans, such as Lassa fever. Most emerging infections, especially those with high pandemic potential in humans emerge from domestic and wildlife animal populations. Due to the ability to test animal vaccines in their intended host, and the relative speed at which animal compared to human vaccines are approved for use, direct vaccination of animals rather humans is becoming accepted as an approach to protect humans against some emerging zoonotic pathogens. The TVG platform technology is based on herpesvirus-based vaccine vectors for use in animals with the ability to ‘plug and play’ pathogen immunological target proteins in response to new pathogen threats.
TVG, and my Vaccine Design Studios laboratory within TVG, are the natural evolution of my academic work on vaccines against emerging infectious pathogens that I started at Oregon Health Sciences University, and then expanded following my move to the University of Plymouth, where I have been an Associate Professor since 2014. My work is highly collaborative, and I have long-term collaborations with multiple individuals within the UK and across the World. I have been a member of the NIAID Biosurety Program since 2014, which further enables my work on highly pathogenic infectious microbes.
I am a strong advocate of outreach for practical application of science. In my local area of Devon, I devote over a month every year to engaging with livestock/equestrian veterinarians and farmers in the field. I believe in the value of diversity in all aspects of life, but especially within science. I am therefore very proud of the successful completion of my first PhD student in 2017, Dr Shirin Hama Salih, a Kurdish woman in science. She has since returned to her native Iraq, and is working as a scientist at the Kurdish Salahaddin University.