If past experience is anything to go by, R&D collaborations in animal health are set to fall in 2013 (see Animal Health Partnerships graph below).
By Philip Connolly
Published: 28 March 2013 11:17 AM
Animal Pharm has been given access to the data base of animal health R&D partnerships compiled by leading business intelligence operation Current Agreements. It is clear that 2013 has got off to a slow start and, in every year of the past decade, what happens in January and February sets the tone for the full year.
The downturn in 2013 follows two years of steady growth. Driving the increased number of collaborations between 2010 and 2012 for the discovery and development of pharmaceuticals and vaccines were Asia andNorth America.
Typically, around half of all agreements each year are concerned with vaccines in general and cell lines in particular. French company Vivalis has been particularly successful in licensing its EB66 line which is derived from duck embryonic stem cells. Vivalis has done deals with several major companies including Merck (and Intervet), Merial, Boehringer Ingelheim andFort Dodge (now Zoetis).
While it might be assumed that these large concerns are all active players when it comes to tapping smaller partners for science, technology and candidate products, in fact only Pfizer (now Zoetis) and Merial have consistently looked outside their own R&D organisations. In the 10 years since 2004, these two accounted for three quarters of the animal health partnerships recorded by Current Agreements. It must, of course, be borne in mind that not every partnership is disclosed.
Pfizer’s belief in collaborations was made clear by its area president Dr Albert Bourla at the launch of its $2 million research partnership with the Easter Bush consortium of Scottish veterinary institutions in 2010 (Animal Pharm November 15 2010). Dr Bourla said: "The time when industry could research and develop its own ideas and products in isolation is coming to an end; the future of animal health and welfare lies in multi-disciplinary collaboration with external partners who share the same vision."
Why do not all major companies agree? One industry view is that there is not the same imperative for animal health companies to seek solutions to rare diseases, which is generating numerous collaborations in human healthcare. When a veterinarian always has the option of simply trying a human product, there is less incentive for animal health R&D organisations to invest de novo in niche areas, even for companion animals.
When it comes to livestock, there is a familiar ring to many of the challenges. In-house knowledge is high and seeking advances may not seem very enticing when the target is so well-known. Perhaps over-familiarity with product areas such as wormers and mastitis dissuades management from sanctioning the necessary R&D investment.