Local Expertise to Beat New Players in Animal VaccinesBy Jan Hogewoning | Mon, 05/25/2020 - 14:07
Q: How is your company supporting the agri-food industry?
A: We are a 100 percent Mexican company dedicated to the research, development, manufacturing and commercialization of highly specialized vaccines for livestock. During our almost 40 years of existence, we made several contributions to the development of recombinant vaccines, pharmaceuticals, disinfectants and alimentary additives. The goal of these products is to improve health, increasing animal well-being, productivity and security. We are mostly present in the poultry and pork sectors, and to a lesser degree in cattle and aquaculture. In terms of exports, our primary destinations are countries in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
Q: What are the diseases you are focused on tackling?
A: Currently, Avimex invests approximately 10 percent of its vaccine sales in R&D, which is one of the highest rates in the world. In the poultry area, we are focused on preventing and controlling viral diseases such as Newcastle Disease, bird flu, hepatitis associated with corpuscles inclusion, as well as intoxication caused by mold metabolites called mycotoxins that are present in animal foodstuffs. For Newcastle Disease we have vectorized a vaccine and we are developing another vectorized vaccine for the Aviadenovirus. In the area of pork farming, we focus on both viral and bacterial disease such as Blue Eye, swine flu, Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome (PRRS), micro-plasmosis and mycotoxin poisoning. Our vaccines, developed with recombinant technology, fall under our Vaxigen line, a highly successful product line.
Q: What are Vixagen’s main developments?
A: Vixagen is a line of vaccines with active and inactive recombinants for the treatment of birds and pigs. These vaccines are protected by both national and international patents. They have an antigenic homology and use a DIVA concept to differentiate vaccinated animals from infected. This provides a higher level of protection. Technology is based on different vectors as well as reversed genetics. The current vector we are using and commercializing is the Aviary Paramixovirus. Soon we will be launching the innovative vector Aviadenovirus, which is unique at a global level. These two vectors coupled with reverse genetics will set the basis for developing complete vaccine lines for distinct bird and pig diseases. An example of a product already in the market is Vaxigen NewH5 (known in other countries as Vaxigen® K-NewH5), which has been essential to protect against type H5 bird flu. Another example is Vaxigen Flu-H7, which we have successfully commercialized here in Mexico.
Q: Where do you carry out your R&D?
A: We currently have three R&D locations. In Mexico City we isolate, purify and identify viruses and bacteria and conduct molecular diagnoses. In Queretaro we obtain genes and develop vectors to make vectorized and recombinant vaccines and in Morelos we have BSL-3 level insulation sites where we conduct in vivo tests. In Queretaro, we recently expanded the laboratory, multiplying the size of operations of vaccine development by five. We also acquired a pharmaceutical lab adjacent to this site, which will allow us to increase the production of veterinarian biologicals developed with cultivated cells and open up space for the production of antigens with chicken embryos. We are also starting the construction of another plant specifically for pharmaceutical formulations. With these investments, along with efforts to upgrade and automate equipment, we should be able to increase the production of fluids of embryos in chickens for vaccines by 50 percent. On top, we are also working to double the capacity for quality control tests of our vaccines.
Q: What is your strategy to attract and maintain clients?
A: Both the poultry and pork sector are highly consolidated. Clients have significant buying and negotiating power and high demands. We adapted to these conditions by creating regional service units with local staff and storage capacity. These units count veterinarians who are focused on providing solutions which meet the specifications of each client. Our technical consultants are able to design effective medicine programs that also include training for our clients’ medical staff and plant operators.
Q: What are the main goals and challenges you face in the near future?
A: Firstly, we need to maintain the licenses of our main technological platform. We can extend its lifecycle by developing new patents. We recently acquired a new license that protects our products for several more years and are looking at developing more technological platforms to support our existing work.
There is a growing trend of antibiotics-free animal feed. The technology to produce products without antibiotics is in our reach and we are confident we can achieve similar growth figures as with antibiotics-containing products. We already ran successful tests 10 years ago but found the market was not ripe yet. Recently, we restarted these tests with the intention of entering the market this time around.
Technical specifications are also being elevated to meet European level requirements. We are working on a methodology to ensure our products comply with USDA specifications, which is part of a preparatory phase to enter the European market in five years. This would go hand in hand with the construction of a new plant.
Another challenge is the oligopoly of multinationals in the area of intellectual property. Due to the amount of investments made by large pharmaceutical companies in R&D in the veterinary area (from US$100 to US$400 million annually), they have a great competitive advantage as far as patents are concerned. Avimex is in a good technological position for the next seven to 10 years with its current platform. However, we are carrying out the analyses to develop future technologies. This coincides with the possible entrance of new competitors from countries such as China, India and Brazil. The best strategy for us is to take advantage of being local and being highly competitive, offering added value through differentiated products and our own supply chain.
Avimex develops and produces bio-innovative vaccines, pharmaceuticals, detoxification solutions, disinfectants and alimentary additives for the livestock industry. The company services the Mexican market, Latin America, Africa and Asia.