Iowa company gets first USDA-issued conditional license to develop bird flu vaccine

An Iowa company has been awarded the first license by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop a bird flu vaccine.

Ames-based Harrisvaccines says the conditional license authorizes it to continue testing the vaccine's effectiveness and stand ready if the USDA gives order to begin manufacturing.

The company was licensed to make pig virus vaccines last year and in 2012.

Company Vice President Joel Harris said Monday that testing with the USDA shows the virus to be 95 percent effective in adult hens and 93 percent effective in day-old chicks with one dose.

Harrisvaccines creates vaccines using genetic code — a string of 1,500 letters in specific sequence — eliminating the need to handle live virus. Harris says that allows the vaccine to be updated quickly if the virus mutates.