In terms of responsible innovation, Virbac today works with two main themes: alternative methods to animal testing and the reduction of antibiotics in animal production.
The development of prevention, particularly by vaccination, is one of the ways to reduce the use of antibiotics in animal production. Recent investments by Virbac in centers for research and vaccination production for livestock in Uruguay, Chile and Taiwan reflect this willingness on the part of the company to strengthen its development in the field of vaccines. Virbac is also involved in several partnership programs with public research institutes and private companies for the purposes of developing alternatives to antibiotics that will not lead to resistance in treated bacteria. These partnerships are part of long-term rationale and, like the vaccine strategy, will reduce the use of antibiotics.
Virbac develops pharmaceutical and biological products for which regulatory requirements, as well as some quality controls imposed by medication agencies, must involve testing on animals. Virbac commits itself to the 3Rs rule (reduce, refine, replace) and is proactive in replacing studies and trials on animals with alternative methods and techniques, in addition to negotiating with the various agencies worldwide to persuade them to accept these alternative methods.
In 2017, 18% of the animals were used for R&D studies, 82% for biology production quality control (regulatory trials for release of vaccines).
Dedicated to animal health, Virbac does not use primates for its R&D studies, but focuses on the species for which its health products are intended (efficacy and safety studies). Rodents and rabbits are used in the validation phases for new vaccines.
R&D studies - breakdown by species (%)
Out of the 7,466 rodents and rabbits used in studies, 1,745, or 23%, were used for validation and development of alternative methods. This temporary phase makes it possible to prove the reliability of alternative methods, particularly for the quality control of vaccines, and to foresee a significant medium-term reduction in the use of rodents.
34,591 animals were used as part of Quality Control activities in 2017.
0.15% of domestic carnivores are used for the Target Animal Batch Safety Test (TABST) still required by several countries outside of Europe in order to release vaccines.
Over the past few years, Virbac has made a major effort to reduce the number of domestic carnivores.
Domestic carnivores used in quality control between 2013 and 2017
This reduction in the number of animals (69%) between 2013 and 2017 was achieved thanks to a 78% reduction in the number of trials carried out on domestic carnivores (the increase between 2016 and 2017 reflects a greater number of vaccines to be tested for countries outside of Europe).
Various initiatives made it possible to achieve this result:
Since 2013, the year in which adoption was authorized in France by the new “Animal Welfare” regulation, Virbac has collaborated with the primary French association dedicated to this activity. The goal of ensuring a host family for 100% of adoptable dogs and cats was reached.
The drop in animals adopted since 2014 is due to a reduction in the number of quality controls (removal of tests) and by the nature of the R&D studies (vaccine development).