When Schmallenberg virus spread quickly across eight European countries, causing fever, diarrhea, and reduced milk yield in cattle, sheep and goats, Zoetis was swift to respond with Zulvac® SBV, the first vaccine centrally authorized in 2014 by the European Commission to help control the virus. With the recent re-emergence of the disease, Zulvac SBV remains the only centrally authorized vaccine available to help control it. In pregnant animals, the virus can infect the nervous system of the fetus, causing brain damage and skeletal defects, making the need for Zulvac SBV all the more important.
Center for Transboundary and Emerging Diseases
Now, Zoetis is enhancing its capabilities to be “First to Know and Fast to Market” to help control outbreaks of infectious diseases, creating the Center for Transboundary and Emerging Diseases. The Center builds on the experience and momentum gained since Zoetis established its Emerging Infectious Disease Program in 2008 with the goal of rapidly responding to emerging infectious disease threats. The new Center operates virtually and serves as a coordinating hub, enabling Zoetis scientists to engage seamlessly and swiftly with leaders from across the company’s United States and International businesses, its global manufacturing and supply network and global functions to support customers when outbreaks of new or ever-present infectious diseases occur.
“We at Zoetis recognize that infectious diseases are occurring with greater frequency and geographic impact, driven by climate change, urbanization, and increasing global travel and trade,” said Dr. Mahesh Kumar, Senior Vice President, Biologics Research and Development at Zoetis. “With the advent of the Center for Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, we are enhancing our capabilities and capacity to respond sooner and faster to help control infectious disease whenever and wherever needed.”
The Center builds on four core capabilities that distinguish Zoetis as a global leader in effective, rapid response to transboundary and emerging diseases, according to Dr. John Hardham, Research Director, who leads the Center. “We are bringing together our expertise in traditional and rational vaccine development, our alliances with centers of excellence in disease surveillance, expertise in regulatory affairs, and our capability to scale up product manufacturing at the highest level of quality to support our customers with solutions to control infectious diseases.”
Helping Prepare a Strong Offense Against Devastating Diseases
Hardham added that through the coordinated work of the Center, Zoetis is helping governments prepare for and protect against the threat of outbreaks of devastating diseases.
One such example is the project Zoetis has underway to develop a vaccine to help protect against the threat of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in the United States. FMD is a highly contagious and sometimes fatal disease and affects cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, bison and other ruminants, causing fever followed by blisters in the mouth and hooves. FMD has not been detected in the mainland United States since 1929; however, it is present in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and outbreaks have occurred in the past two decades in European countries. The possibility of re-entry to the U.S. remains a threat. An FMD outbreak in the United States would devastate the country’s Livestock industry, through the likely destruction of millions of animals. The potential economic damages to the U.S. is estimated to be $12.8 billion annually resulting in more than $100 billion over ten years. Preparedness to prevent its entry and spread is the best offense. An important element of that offense includes development of a vaccine that can be rapidly manufactured in the U.S. to ensure a sufficient inventory is at the ready in the U.S. National Veterinary Stockpile.
“Advances in technology have made it possible for Zoetis, in collaboration with the USDA – Agricultural Research Service, to genetically modify the FMD virus so that it is not infectious and cannot transmit among livestock,” said Mahesh Kumar. Known as the FMD-LL3B3D vaccine platform, this technology will allow Zoetis scientists to safely develop an FMD vaccine in the U.S. Data indicate that the platform also makes it possible for regulatory authorities and veterinarians to distinguish between animals that have been vaccinated and those with natural FMD virus infection, which would help protect export markets for U.S.-raised meat. The development of this platform combined with Zoetis’ R&D capabilities prompted the USDA in April to grant Zoetis a select agent exclusion authorizing Zoetis to develop vaccines using this modified, non-infectious FMD-LL3B3D vaccine platform in the U.S.
On the Forefront of Controlling Emerging Diseases in Animals
Zoetis has been on the forefront of vaccine development to help combat many of the most significant infectious diseases that have threatened the health of livestock as well as companion animals. In the livestock segment, Zoetis has developed vaccine solutions against Blue tongue disease, classical swine fever, porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, and highly pathogenic avian influenza.
Since 2012, Zoetis in Australia has marketed a vaccine it developed with government and NGO partners to protect horses from infection with the life-threatening Hendra virus, a zoonotic pathogen that can also threaten the health of people who come into contact with infected horses. And, when a newly identified canine influenza virus H3N2 spread rapidly across 25 U.S. states, Zoetis was first to receive a conditional license from USDA in November 2015 to help veterinarians protect dogs from infection. Zoetis subsequently began to market its Vanguard® CIV H3N2/H3N8, a bivalent canine flu vaccine to help control highly contagious H3N2 and H3N8 strains of canine influenza virus (CIV) prevalent in the U.S.
To learn more about Zoetis capabilities in combating transboundary and emerging diseases, visit Zoetis.com/innovation.