Dr. Mahesh Kumar, Vice President, Global Biological Research and Development at Zoetis shares his insights on taking a One Health approach to combating emerging infectious diseases.

If it seems like emerging infectious diseases such as Zika virus and new strains of ever-present diseases such as influenza have been in the news more frequently, you are right. Infectious disease outbreaks have increased because of contributing factors such as encroachment of suburban communities into woodlands, climate change, and increasing global travel and trade. The need for collaboration across human and veterinary medicine and public health leaders – a One Health approach – has never been more pressing.

Infectious Diseases Between Animals and People

Taking a One Health approach makes sense when you consider that up to 75 percent of diseases that can affect people are zoonotic, meaning they can transmit between animals and people. The World Health Organization has identified approximately 200 such diseases. There are many and changing subtypes of influenza virus that can affect multiple species – including pigs, poultry, horses and dogs – as well as people.  Some infectious pathogens such as West Nile Virus and Lyme disease are transmitted by insects – mosquitoes and ticks, respectively – to people and animals.

Other types of infectious diseases such as Classical Swine Fever, Blue Tongue and Schmallenberg affect only animals. Even so, they pose a challenge to people who count on having a safe, sustainable supply of meat, milk, poultry and eggs from healthy animals as well as to the farm families whose livelihoods depend on animals. Up to 20 percent of food production animals are lost to disease annually with an associated cost of $120 billion from 1995 to 2008, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

First to Know and Fast to Market

Zoetis is determined to be the first to know about an emerging infectious disease and also be fast to market. Zoetis has the will and competence to be successful in this arena because of the following internal capabilities:

  • Expertise in Traditional and Rational Vaccine Development. We draw on both the deep scientific knowledge Zoetis scientists have in infectious disease and our expertise in product development. We apply traditional approaches to vaccine development and we identify opportunities to use a tailored, or ‘rational’, design for a new vaccine. Our new VANGUARD® crLyme vaccine exemplifies our ability to design a vaccine that is uniquely targeted to help provide broad antigenic coverage against Lyme disease while minimizing extraneous proteins that may cause reactions in dogs.

  • Alliances with Centers of Excellence. Strong alliances with academic and government centers of excellence in disease surveillance are important to our success. Their ability to access isolates and their expertise in the identification and characterization of novel pathogens in a reference setting is invaluable to us. Our knowledge and expertise in relevant disease models and study designs help to develop them into much needed vaccines.

  • Regulatory Affairs. Our excellent relationship with the various regulatory authorities worldwide supports our ability to respond quickly. Our speed to market is often dependent on the cooperation of our health authorities and their recognition of an emerging infectious disease.

  • Flexible Manufacturing Capacity.   Another key success factor is Zoetis’ capability to scale up product manufacturing at the highest level of quality. Our pilot facilities worldwide allow us to respond rapidly to an emerging situation and opportunity.

Making a Difference

Zoetis has been on the forefront of providing solutions for emerging diseases.

  • In 2012, Zoetis became the first and only company to receive approval for a vaccine – Equivac® HeV to help protect horses from Hendra virus, a zoonotic disease identified in Queensland Australia that can threaten the lives of horses and people who come in contact with infected horses.

  • When an outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus killed millions of piglets in the U.S. in 2013, Zoetis developed a conditionally licensed vaccine* in only 14 months to help protect healthy pregnant sows and gilts from this devastating disease.

  • In 2014, the European Medicines Agency granted Zoetis marketing authorization for Zulvac® SBV, the first centrally authorized vaccine in the UK registered to help cattle and sheep against Schmallenberg virus. First identified in late 2011 in Germany and subsequently in sixteen countries, the virus infects cattle, sheep and goats causing fever, diarrhea, and reduced milk yield in adult animals. In pregnant animals, it can infect the nervous system of the fetus, causing brain damage and skeletal defects.

  • Our recent conditional license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the Avian Influenza Vaccine, H5N1 Subtype, Killed Virus* is another great example of our continuing success. Last year, the poultry industry in the Midwest experienced one of the worst avian influenza epidemics with over 50 million bird deaths. Working with the USDA on a rationally designed vaccine using our proprietary technology, our newest vaccine includes the most updated strain for use in helping control H5N1 bird flu. With this new conditional license, Zoetis will now pursue the current opportunity to supply vaccines to the USDA’s National Veterinary Stockpile, which would be used should the USDA and the industry decide a vaccination strategy is needed.

  • Late last year we also became the first to receive a conditional license in the United States for a vaccine* to help protect dogs from the newly identified canine influenza virus H3N2, which was first detected in the U.S. in Chicago last March 2015 and rapidly spread to 25 states (and continues to spread).

As part of our commitment to leadership in infectious diseases, we are interested in research alliances that make being first to know and fast to market possible. We continue to pursue the acquisition or in-licensing of cutting edge technologies. Examples of these include creating delivery approaches to improve the duration of efficacy of our products; efficiently producing active ingredients and formulations; or providing options for novel approaches to help prevent or treat disease. For more information on how to partner with us, visit http://www.zoetis.com/innovation/strategic-partnerships/index.aspx.

Dr. Kumar’s editorial is based on his recent presentation to top specialists in vaccine development during the World Vaccine Congress in Washington D.C. held March 29-31.

*  This product license is conditional. Efficacy and potency studies are in progress.