ImmuCell, an animal biotech firm based in Portland, is a big step closer to getting a new kind of treatment for dairy cows to market.
The company has completed a new facility where, pending approval from the FDA, it will manufacture a dairy-based treatment for mastitis, a common infection in dairy cows.
ImmuCell President and CEO Michael Brigham says using Nisin could save farmers a lot of money. Unlike with traditional antibiotics, farmers can keep selling milk from cows treated with Nisin because if there is any residue from the treatment it's not a problem.
"Tons of Nisin are consumed per year, are consumed by humans as a food preservative, say, in a cheese spread," Brighham says. "So that safety's been established as a food preservative."
In contrast, when farmers treat with antibiotics, they have to dump that milk so antibiotic residue doesn't get into the milk supply.
ImmuCell's development of Nisin comes as the World Health Organization is calling on farmers to reduce their use of antibiotics to try to stem the rise of drug-resistant infections. Brigham says concern about so-called "superbugs" wasn't yet on the radar when ImmuCel began working on the new mastitis treatment in 2002.
"And this growing public health concern about the superbugs and antibioitic resistance has really been a bonus to us later in the development," he says.
Brigham says the FDA approval process is likely to take about two more years - and the company hopes to have the new treatment on the market by late 2019.