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Innovating responsibly

For many years, we have sought to provide an innovative and safe range of products and services, developed and produced with respect for animal welfare. Our customers, veterinarians, farmers and animal owners around the world, are becoming increasingly mindful of their impact on the environment and human health. As a responsible company, we have naturally oriented our business accordingly.

Furthermore, we focus our research on increasingly innovative and distinguished health solutions that address a variety of diseases and production needs, based on the peculiarities of the individual geographic areas in which they appear. Every day, we are committed to the best way to achieve this, while remaining faithful to the quality requirements of health.

DEVELOPMENT OF INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

The field of the veterinary pharmaceutical industry is highly competitive, and every year, in order to meet market changes and needs, maintain our market share and ensure our development, we devote significant resources to research and development. We place particular importance on the search for continuous improvement in the innovative solutions proposed and in the way they are developed.

OUR KEY OBJECTIVES

  • Develop alternatives to antibiotics.
  • Develop modern alternatives to traditional treatments.
  • Use new environmentally friendly technologies to develop and update our products.

GOVERNANCE

Our organization in charge of innovation is structured in research centers spread across all continents and which work in a network of key skills to generate greater synergies and creativity. This close proximity with our customers and their needs in the different global markets allows us to have a range of relevant and adapted products and services.

OUR POLICIES AND ACTION PLANS

Develop alternatives to antibiotics

The development of prevention, particularly by vaccination, is one of the ways to reduce the use of antibiotics in animal production. Our recent investments in our centers for the research, development and production of vaccines intended for production animals in France, Australia, Chile, Uruguay and Taiwan reflect this ambition to strengthen the Group’s development in this area. We have also engaged several partnership programs with public research institutes and private companies to advance together in the development of innovative products (immunostimulants, micronutrition, biocides), some of which may replace antibiotics or help reduce their use. New medicines that will help the veterinary profession advance toward its goal of changing its practices are also being developed. 

Develop modern alternatives to traditional treatments

We remain very attentive to healthy ecosystems and to environmental protection. Our goal is to develop alternatives to certain traditional therapies. As part of our responsible innovation process, we have taken a new step forward thanks to the discovery of a new treatment that represents a real alternative to surgical castration in dogs, through hormonal regulation that neutralizes the reproductive capacity of the animal for six months or a year. The animal’s well-being is preserved here. Any irreversible surgical procedure is currently unnecessary, in the interests of the animal and its owner.

Use new environmentally friendly technologies to develop and update our products

For the development of new products, all Virbac R&D sites worldwide in charge of analyses now use more efficient chromatography and extraction technologies. This approach helps reduce:

  • the number of tests necessary for the development of the methods (-50%); 
  • the amount of organic solvents or materials (between -50 and -90%);
  • as well as the energy consumption of the analysis devices (-50%)

The same approach is used with the same benefits throughout the product life cycle, including during regulatory updates of existing products. Beyond the methodologies, whenever a toxic solvent can be substituted with an alternative solvent, it is proactively replaced by an equivalent that is more environmentally friendly.

OUR RESULTS

Performance indicators  2019 2020 2021
% of RDL biology expenditure*/total 33.0% 32.8% 31.1%
% of RDL expenses/Group revenue 8.1% 7.9% 7.4%

* Vaccines, immunological products and biopharmaceutical products

In 2021, the exceptional revenue performance has a downward impact on RDL expenditure ratios, even though the absolute growth of these expenditures between 2020 and 2021 is more than 8% (excluding the impact of the research tax credit).

ANIMAL ETHICS AND WELFARE

Virbac stakeholders (customers, veterinarians, farmers, employees, etc.) are increasingly mindful of the impact of our products on the entire value chain. This is why we conduct our innovation approach and our operations in a strong ethical framework, promoting as much as possible in vitro testing and associating our various partners and stakeholders: suppliers, supervisory authorities, professional associations, etc.

STUDIES ON ANIMALS

For the evaluation of our products in development or before marketing, our first approach is always to use methods that do not involve animals: bibliographical research, in vitro studies, computer modeling, etc. In some cases, when no recognized or adapted alternative method is possible, then animal studies of a necessary nature are conducted in accordance with applicable pharmaceutical rules and regulations.

These animal studies deal with

  • animal protection: verification of the product’s safety (non-toxicity, no impact on reproduction, non-carcinogenic, etc.) and its efficacy in treating or protecting the target animal;
  • human protection: verification of safety for the product user and the absence of residues in species consumed (meat, milk, eggs);
  • environmental protection: verification of the absence of toxicity for organisms other than the target species that may come in contact with the product.

Preclinical and clinical studies

  • Pre-clinical studies (studies carried out in animal units under standardized and controlled conditions) are governed by regulations that affect every dimension of animal studies: approval of the institutions where the studies are carried out, staff training and qualifications, the provenance of the animals and their traceability, prior ethical evaluation of studies and their follow-up, controls by the authorities, ethics committees, and audits carried out by Virbac teams. These studies make it possible to verify the efficacy and safety of products under strict conditions;
  • then clinical studies (conducted on owner or farm animals) are intended to confirm the efficacy and safety of the products under field conditions and are subject to a regulatory submission or prior trial authorization (depending on the country) and are conducted under the responsibility of veterinarians.

In the Group’s animal units, the different categories of animals were distributed as follows in 2021: rodents 94.8%, rabbits 4.1%, food producing animals 0.5%, domestic carnivores 0.6%.

OUR KEY OBJECTIVES

  • Reduce the number of animals in R&D studies and quality controls, by eliminating studies or replacing them with alternative methods. Specifically, Virbac is committed to reducing, by 2025, the number of animals used for quality controls by 18,000 compared to 2018, i.e., a 50% reduction.

GOVERNANCE

General management defines the strategic areas of focus regarding resources for conducting animal studies and the development of alternative methods. These areas are broken down by animal ethics corporate management in the form of policies, action plans and control processes; animal ethics corporate management is also charged with promoting and observing animal ethics and welfare within the Group and by its partners.

OUR POLICIES AND ACTION PLANS

A code of ethics and policies to regulate animal studies

The Group has developed a code of ethics relating to animal studies, which includes ten points and applies to all employees of the Group and its subcontractors. Furthermore, the Group has two policies governing animal studies: Animal ethics committee and Animal welfare.

  • The Animal ethics committee policy defines the scope, roles and responsibilities, organization, ethical rules and the functioning of Virbac’s ethics committees.
  • The Animal welfare policy defines staff roles and responsibilities with regard to animal welfare. Based on the principle of the 3Rs (Replace, Reduce, Refine animal studies) and the Virbac code of animal care, it describes the standards to be applied to animals, studies and animal units within the Group. These standards are also required from the Group’s partners for any animal studies.

Control process  

  • Ethics committees are set up in all areas where animal studies can be conducted. They are all governed by the same ethical principles (independence, impartiality, absence of conflict of interest) and operational principles (imposed membership categories, ethical evaluation of studies, deliberation, vote, etc.). They review 100% of studies, which can only be conducted after obtaining their approval.
  • Ethics audits are carried out, both in the Group’s animal units and at its external partners in order to qualify them.
    With regard to outsourced studies, the Group imposes the same level of requirement on its partners: CROs (contract research organizations), universities, etc. These requirements include the establishment of ethics committees within them, the deployment of strict procedures for the monitoring of their studies and respect for animal welfare and regulations.

Key actions implemented

  • The 3Rs rule, now recognized as the international standard for animal studies, is our guiding principle for the design and execution of studies in our laboratories as well as those of our partners, but also for the development of alternative methods and their promotion with regulatory agencies around the world. For example, when possible, carrying out in vitro tests in lieu of in vivo tests, or by capitalizing on reproducible tests, on bibliographic research or computer modeling.
  • Various initiatives (negotiations with regulatory agencies to eliminate routine tests, production of dedicated batches for countries that do not require animal tests, replacement with in vitro methods, etc.) continue to bear fruit. They have enabled us to reduce the number of domestic carnivores used to release vaccine batches by 88%, and to commit to the objective of reducing the use of animals in quality control by 50%.
  • In this context, Virbac Australia announced at the end of 2020 the release of its first vaccine batches using in vitro activity tests. After several years of development, this constitutes the first step towards the total elimination of quality control tests on rodents, saving 8,000 animals per year in this territory. To achieve this result, Virbac Australia’s initiative led to the first regulatory acceptance of an in vitro release test by the Australian veterinary medicine authorities. This process began to bear fruit in 2021 with a 46% decrease in rodents used in Quality Control in the Group’s Australian subsidiary.
  • In France, abandoning the leptospirosis vaccine release test in favor of a totally in vitro test has reduced the number of hamsters by 75% since 2018, with animal testing being maintained at the request of the regulatory authorities of certain countries outside Europe.

In France, the post-study animal adoption program, implemented in 2013 in collaboration with the main French association dedicated to the adoption of laboratory animals, has also been expanded with an employee adoption procedure, and helps maintain our goal of guaranteeing a foster family for 100% of adoptable dogs and cats.

600x124 - EN-Tableau adoption.svg

OUR RESULTS

Performance indicators  2019 2020 2021
Number of animals used for R&D studies 6,664 6,148 5,772
Number of animals used for quality controls 27,917 23,377 20,107
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Strengthening employee engagement

Ensuring the quality of products and services

Protecting the environment


Download the Statement of non-financial performance

CSR strategy and indicators