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September 15, 2011 (Vol. 31, No. 16)

Repurposing Biotechnology Products for Pet Care

Firm Finds New Uses for Drugs, Diagnostics, and Devices in Companion Animals

  • University Affiliation

    When Gilead Sciences was testing GS-9219 as a possible therapy for human cancer, it turned to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University (CSU) to perform the preclinical animal trials.

    “We were quite familiar with Gilead’s early work because of a strong existing research relationship. We were able to acquire a license to this product specifically for veterinary cancer,” says Roy. Leveraging the safety, tolerability, efficacy, and dosing data from the early preclinical studies “gives us a big head start to move quickly to market and dramatically improves our probability of success.” This information will guide the design of additional studies to gain approval for the drug to treat canine lymphoma.

    VetDC’s association with CSU provides firsthand contact with many biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies that conduct animal studies there. Familiarity with these projects is likely to uncover more emerging technologies with potential for adaptation or modification to veterinary markets. By working with CSU researchers, VetDC also avoids the costs of building its own laboratories and hiring researchers.

  • Unexplored Opportunities

    All new drugs intended to treat human diseases must first be tested in animal models, providing a rich source of data for veterinary applications. However, few biotechnology companies consider targeting veterinary diseases, even though animals and humans often experience similar diseases and respond to similar treatments. “Opportunities to improve the quality of life for companion animals with serious illnesses are too important to go unexplored,” says Roy.

    The Center for Veterinary Medicine at the U.S. FDA regulates the development of drugs for pets. “People think it’s faster to gain approval for animal drugs, but that’s not necessarily the case,” explains Roy. The testing of pet drugs often can be as rigorous as for human drugs. “It is critically important that new technologies for veterinary use are evaluated in clinical veterinary settings and optimized for the unique demands of veterinary clinicians, patients, and their owners.”

    There are 75 million pet dogs and 82 million pet cats in the United States, and Americans spend $13 billion on veterinary care yearly. Recent surveys show that more than one-half of pet owners consider pets to be members of the family and are willing to spend significant amounts on their healthcare. Even during economic downturns, spending on pet healthcare holds steady. “More and more people are willing to pay for high-quality care for their pets,” says Roy.