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Product, Service & Design Innovation
A Buzzworthy Solution:
The World's First Government-Approved Bee Vaccine

Dalan Animal Health introduces the inaugural USDA conditionally licensed vaccine for honeybees, providing a prophylactic solution to safeguard the global honeybee population from lethal infectious diseases.

In the web of nature's design, bees stand as humble heroes. Responsible for pollinating over 75 percent of leading global crops, bees play an indispensable role in food production — with honeybees alone pollinating $15 billion worth of agricultural products each year.

However, despite their importance, the buzz of bees in nature's symphony is fading as these vital pollinators face an unprecedented decline. Honeybee populations are impacted by a host of challenges threatening their existence —habitat loss, pesticide exposure, climate change and diseases such as American foulbrood disease (AFB) are among the major culprits behind colony collapse disorder, which is weakening and ultimately decimating bee populations.

With scientists and innovators working tirelessly to protect our pollinators — creating solutions from robotic beekeeping to the world's first vegan honeyAthens, Georgia-based Dalan Animal Health joins the fight with the world's first honeybee vaccine.

“Pollinators are the building blocks of our food supply and play a crucial role in maintaining ecosystem biodiversity. Without them, the global food supply as we know it ceases to exist,” co-founder and CEO Dr. Annette Kleiser — who has over 20 years’ experience in biotech business development, startups and corporate strategy — tells Sustainable Brands®. “Our honeybee vaccine represents an important milestone in the collective fight for increased invertebrate health and environmental sustainability as we enable beekeepers to access proactive solutions for healthy, productive hives.”

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Kleiser met co-founder Dalial Freitak at the University of Helsinki and the two connected over groundbreaking research on pollinator health. In 2018, they founded Dalan to take the research from the lab to real-world application.

The vaccine

An inoculated queen among drones | Image credit: Dalan Animal Health

According to Dr. Nigel Swift, Dalan’s Global Head of Sustainable Agriculture and One Health, the vaccine “offers a non-chemical, sustainable alternative to antibiotics — reducing the risk of antibiotic resistance and ensuring healthier bee populations, which are essential for biodiversity and a stable, productive agricultural ecosystem.”

Dalan’s vaccine specifically addresses the threat of American Foulbrood (AFB) — the most widespread and destructive of the brood diseases. While it only attacks larvae, AFB weakens the colony and can lead to its death in only three weeks. Administered orally to the queen bee, it utilizes a biological process known as transgenerational immune priming (where immunity to diseases is passed down from one generation to the next). Through this mechanism, the queen bee imparts AFB immunity to her offspring during their development — ensuring the entire colony benefits. What sets this approach apart is its reliance on natural processes, devoid of chemicals or genetic modification. This aligns seamlessly with organic agriculture principles and regulations set forth by the USDA — underscoring Dalan’s commitment to sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions for insect health.

“Somebody has to do this. Bees are dying; and while there are many reasons why they’re dying, disease is a major factor,” Kleiser explains. “We depend on them for our food. We’re not going to address pesticides or monocultures any time soon — those are policy decisions — but we know vaccines work; and research has shown it seems to work in bees. This is something we can do now. We don’t have to wait 20 years.”

Dalan is committed to scaling up the production and distribution of its vaccine. Leveraging regulatory approval and manufacturing processes, the company aims to ensure widespread access to this vital protection, aligning with the urgent demands of our time.

In the United States and Canada, beekeepers can access Dalan’s vaccine through inoculated queens available from queen producers and retailers. Additionally, larger operations have the option to purchase vials directly from their team for inoculating their own queens. While challenges such as scaling production, navigating diverse regulatory landscapes and ensuring global accessibility lie ahead, opportunities abound in forging partnerships, harnessing technological advancements and increasing awareness of the critical importance of bee health.

Collaboration and transparency

Dalan Animal Health engages in collaborations with agricultural organizations, environmental groups and regulatory bodies — pooling resources and expertise to tackle bee health challenges comprehensively and promote ecosystem resilience.

The company also prioritizes transparency regarding the vaccine's capabilities and limitations, aiming to foster informed discussions and sharing insights. Through open dialogue, the Dalan team educates stakeholders on the benefits of vaccination, the necessity of continued inoculation for new queen bees, and ongoing research efforts aimed at mitigating bee health threats. This approach strives to empower beekeepers and decision-makers with the knowledge needed to make informed choices for the wellbeing of pollinators and ecosystems alike.

"Our mission is to revolutionize bee health management, fostering resilient bee populations essential for ecosystem health and sustainable agriculture worldwide,” Kleiser asserts. “Our vaccine serves as a cornerstone in realizing this vision — offering a safe, effective and eco-friendly solution to combat one of the foremost threats to bee health and global food security.”