Shrimp are now among the many food sources being explored with mRNA gene therapy techniques. An enterprise from Israel is pioneering the introduction of mRNA vaccines for shrimp cultivation and has successfully garnered $8.25 million in investments from venture capitalists. Their aim is to enhance marine animal health using their unique orally dispensed RNA-particle system.
ViAqua, the biotech firm in question, has developed an RNA vaccine that employs RNA interference (RNAi) to adjust gene activity in shrimp. This RNAi method involves using RNA molecules to suppress or modify the activity of specific target mRNA molecules.
This vaccine is provided as a specially coated feed additive aimed at increasing resilience against the white spot syndrome virus (WSSV). This particular virus results in annual losses approximated at $3 billion, coupled with a 15% drop in global shrimp yield. ViAqua indicates that by feeding their coated product, RNA molecules can counteract the genes responsible for illnesses. Preliminary studies from 2022 have shown that this nanovaccine has an efficacy rate of about 80% against a severe WSSV challenge and has showcased promising safety standards in live trials. However, the implications of modifying shrimp gene activity and the consequences of consuming such shrimp remain uncertain.
Shai Ufaz, ViAqua’s CEO, mentioned in a statement that “Using oral delivery methods is viewed as the ultimate advancement in aquaculture health due to the impracticality of individually vaccinating shrimp. This method can significantly reduce the costs associated with disease management while enhancing results. We’re eager to introduce this innovative solution to the market, addressing the demand for cost-effective disease treatments in aquaculture.”
ViAqua is set to commence production in India by 2024 and envisions that their technology will have a wide range of applications, not just in aquaculture, as indicated in their announcement.
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