Red biotechnology is not restricted to humans

The relevance of biotechnology is certainly not restricted to the human domain, and rightly so, because over the ages humans have always been around animals and even more presently when the ratio of pets per inhabitants increase every year. The food industry and veterinary medicine are constantly trying to improve their traits creating new races, using techniques such as cross breeding and artificial insemination. The rapid development of modern biotechnology has introduced a new dimension to veterinary medicine and animal breeding. Recent developments in the application of molecular biological techniques in veterinary medicine and animal production.

The biotechnology is used in the animals for a variety of applications, including the following:

  • Benefitting and protecting public health, animal health, and welfare.
  • Enhancing host resistance to infectious diseases and eliminating genetic-based diseases.
  • Increasing the efficiency of food and fiber production.
  • Improving the utility, nutritional value, and safety of human food and animal feeds.
  • Producing improved animal medicinal products and diagnostic tools.
  • Promoting environmentally sustainable agricultural practices.
  • Ensuring the production of a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply.

The responsible use of biotechnology is the key to improve animal and human health.

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I/ Biotechnology and Food industry

Biotechnology progressed a lot during these last 10 years as science and medicine. Genome analysis of important breeding species will ultimately allow to detect and consequently eliminate any possible genetic disorder in the annimal species. Moreover, infectious diseases may also be detected in an easier and more reliable manner.

The production of transgenic livestock opens the possibility to generate animals with improved health and productivity without time consuming breeding programmes.

Innovations in diagnostics have also played a part in better livestock breeding. Using biotechnology assisted diagnostics, animal parenthood can be instilled with certain physiological and biochemical traits that are deemed to be desirable. As preservation of endangered species of animals is an essential component of biodiversity conservation, biotechnology uses latest reproductive and cloning techniques to help preserve endangered species.

II/ Veterinary medicine

There are several medicines for use in animal health that can be attributed to biotechnology. We are then talking about red biotechnology. Vaccines against ticks and helminths (parasites) are possible using recombinant DNA technology and conventional vaccines have not been successful here yet. Using the same technology, recombinant vaccines can be used to treat livestock suffering from viral, mycoplasmal and bacterial diseases. These vaccines have better specificity, stability and better safety parameters.

The creation of new technologies through research and the practical application of that knowledge is a valuable adjunct to veterinary medicine. Therefore, the development of these technologies should not be impeded so long as they do not negatively impact health, safety, or welfare of humans, animals, or the environment.

Biotechnology is primarily used in veterinary medicine for the development of better vaccines. For example, it can be used for the preparation of so-called marker vaccines for determining whether the immunity of immunised animals is disease or vaccine-induced. Biotechnology has also been used to produce toxin antigens and immunomodulatory agents. The role of gene technology in the production of such preparations varies.

A few veterinary medicinal products produced with the help of genetic engineering technology have received centralised marketing authorisation in Finland. Their target species include pigs, poultry and pets. However, no such products are currently placed on the market.

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In the event that genetic engineering is applied in clinical trials on food-producing animals, no transgenic animals may end up for human consumption.

III/ Veterinary biotech compagnies

We’ve been drugging ourselves for a long time and more recently we’ve been drugging our kids”, said Oleg Nodelman, an investor in and director of Kindred Biosciences, one of the new companies. “Why shouldn’t our pets have access to medicine?

As we can see in the everyday life more and more people have pets at home. We love them and treat them as part of our family. Americans as Europeans spend more than 500 million euros on Valentine’s Day and 300 million euros on Halloween for their pets. We can see this december with Christmas coming many gifts for our special compagnions. They give us all they have, all their love, all their life, so what would be more normal than giving them back all the care they need and treating them with modern medicine, therapeutics or the most advanced surgery. Pets already can get chemotherapy, knee surgery and transplants. Americans spent nearly $56 billion on pets in 2013, up 45 percent from 2006, according to the American Pet Products Association. Veterinary care, which includes prescription drugs, accounted for $14.4 billion, up more than 50 percent from 2006. Those numbers can be found in Europe as well. Pharmaceutical and veterinary compagnies perfectly understand this trend. They do already, of course. Many of the big pharmaceutical companies have long had veterinary drug divisions. The novelty is in the use of biotechology treatments for the pets. New start-ups named Nexvet (Ireland), VetDC, CanFel Therapeutics, Fetch Pharma and more in developmentt in Europe and Worldwide providing the needs in terms of biotech therapies for our pets. Even big biotech companies like Genentech and Amgen are now turning their attention to pets, as we can see European compagnies starting as well. They hope to develop innovative drugs for dogs, cats and pets in general like those that have revolutionized the treatment of diseases like cancer and arthritis in humans.

The big companies focus more on livestock, edible animals as opposed to petable ones, their offerings for pets are mainly vaccines and treatments for fleas, ticks and worms, said Steven St. Peter, chief executive of Aratana Therapeutics, a pet biotech company. The new companies hope instead to treat diseases like cancer and arthritis. Many are trying to develop monoclonal antibodies, like Humira for rheumatoid arthritis and Herceptin for breast cancer, which are huge sellers in human medicine but have had almost no role so far in animal health.

One challenge could be the cost. Antibodies like Herceptin and Humira cost tens of thousands of dollars a year. Some pet drug companie CEOs say they can get the cost down to several thousand dollars a year, in part because pets need smaller doses. But even that is likely to be too much for many consumers. Only a few percent of pet owners have health insurance for their animals.

Even a big-selling animal drug might have sales of only about $100 million a year, far less than the billions for a human blockbuster. But animal drugs can also be developed far more cheaply and quickly, for $10 million or less, and in only a few years.

Monoclonal antibodies developed for people would cause immune reactions if used in animals. Nexvet, a privately held Australian company that recently raised $31.5 million from American investment funds, has a method to “peticize” antibodies, just as antibodies developed in mice are “humanized” for use in humans.

Animals play a dual role in furthering biotechnology, they benefit from better health and welfare on the one side, and on the other side help the cause of advancing research in human health. Judging by this newly rise of interest in the world of biotechnology for our animals, we could conclude that the industry is going back to the dogs. Or cats, maybe.

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