ISU Researcher Awarded Funds from Merck to Advance Nanoparticle Avian Flu Vaccine Research

Aug. 15, 2022 – Ames, IA – Dr. David Verhoeven, Assistant Professor in Vet Microbiology & Preventative Medicine, was recently awarded a contract from Merck Animal Health to develop nanoparticle-based mRNA technology to improve animal health outcomes for the Avian Flu.

The Avian Flu is a viral disease that primarily impacts birds, such as chickens and turkeys, and can be deadly to those animals. A significant outbreak occurred in 2014-2015 where over 50 million birds were infected, two-thirds of which were in Iowa. Outbreaks have occurred as recently as this year and impacted millions of birds within the state.

“I am looking forward to the continued partnership with Merck to develop nanovaccine technologies that are critical to the industry,” says Dr. David Verhoeven. “Avian Flu has been devastating to the poultry industry, and so we hope to provide solutions with innovative science.”

Dr. Verhoeven, who is also a member of the Nanovaccine Institute, will seek to advance nanoparticle technology using mRNA-based vaccines. This work will involve using in-vivo data in animal models, which will bring researchers one step closer to developing an effective vaccine that induces an improved ability for animal tissues to develop an immune response to the Avian Flu. This project will primarily address benchmarking effectiveness relative to current vaccines. Subsequent work will seek to improve the mRNA technology and explore applications for other animals within the livestock industry.

Nanoparticle technology can deliver disease-preventing vaccines that have several advantages relative to traditional vaccine technologies. This novel process is non-egg based in the manufacturing process, does not require a cold chain for shipping and storage, and does not require needle delivery.

The Nanovaccine Institute is a consortium of 80 researchers at 24 universities, research institutes, national laboratories, and companies aimed to develop nanovaccines and nanotherapeutics to revolutionize how diseases are prevented and treated on a global scale. The consortium represents a transdisciplinary merger of expertise in immunology, nanotechnology, materials science, microbiology, neuroscience, cancer biology, gerontology, clinical science, and social science. Learn more at

Information Contact:

Hanna Bates, Research Administrator, Nanovaccine Institute. Email: Phone: 515-294-2194