Cows Will Grow Human Antibodies on New Facility in South Dakota

Drovers CattleNetwork, Katie Humphreys, Farm Journal Managing Editor November 1, 2017

There’s a new kind of farm going up in southeastern South Dakota. Its barns will house cattle like many farms in the area, but these cattle won’t be raised for meat or milk. They’ll be producing antibodies that can treat human diseases.

SAB Biotheraputics, based in Sioux Falls, uses cloned cattle with certain human DNA. The cows are injected with a vaccine and produce antibodies to fight disease. By taking the plasma from their blood and sterilizing it in a lab, the antibodies could be used in humans to battle some of the worst diseases, including Ebola and Zika. The company’s latest focus is treating the type of flu that puts people in the hospital. Some people don’t respond to flu shots, but an influenza therapeutic produced by SAB could help them.

The company is working toward the first clinical trials on influenza, and if approved, SAB’s cattle are ready to produce the treatment. The new facility could make enough of the antibody to meet worldwide demand, using just 20% of its capacity.

SAB just completed its first trial in humans for treating MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The results showed that the cow-made antibodies worked just like human antibodies to treat the disease.
SAB will start by moving its 35 cows that now live at the Trans Ova Genetics facility across the border in Iowa. Those cows were implanted with embryos the day after the groundbreaking, preparing to create the next generation of antibody-producing bovines.

The first biosecure barn, measuring 360’x50’, will hold up to 80 cows. At full capacity, the 80-acre site and facility could handle 400 head of cows and 40 employees, according to SAB.