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Innovating responsibly

In a rapidly changing environment, we owe it to ourselves 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 are becoming increasingly mindful of their impact on the environment and human health. We are, therefore, naturally driven to adapt our activities accordingly.

Thus we focus our research over the long term and offer innovative solutions that address a variety of diseases and production needs, depending on the peculiarities of 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.
  • Developing 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 into research centers divided by species and by region of the globe. This closeness 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

Developing 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 research and production centers for vaccines intended for production animals in France, Australia, Chile, Uruguay and Taiwan reflect this willingness 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 whom may replace antibiotics or promote the reduction of their use.

Developing modern alternatives to traditional treatments

Mindful of ecosystem balance and 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 which 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 is substituted by an alternative solvent, it is proactively replaced by an equivalent that is more environmentally friendly.

OUR RESULTS

Performance indicators  2018 2019 2020
% of RDL biology expenditure*/total 40.6% 33.0% 32.8%
% of RDL expenses/Group revenue 8.4% 8.1% 7.9%

* Vaccines, immunological products and biopharmaceutical products

ANIMAL ETHICS AND WELFARE

Virbac stakeholders (customers, veterinarians, farmers , employees, etc.) are increasingly concerned about 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 necessity are conducted in accordance with the applicable pharmaceutical rules.

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 the 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 2020: rodents 96.5%, rabbits 3.1%, food producing animals 0.3%, domestic carnivores 0.07%.

OUR KEY OBJECTIVES

  • Reduce the number of animals as part of R&D studies and quality controls, by deleting 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

The Innovation department defines the strategic axes in terms of resources for conducting animal studies and the development of alternative methods. These areas are broken down by the animal ethics corporate management in the form of policies, action plans and control processes; this department is also in charge of promoting and respecting animal ethics and welfare within the Group and its partners.

OUR POLICIES AND ACTION PLANS

An ethical charter and policies to manage animal studies

The Group has developed an ethical charter relating to animal studies, which is available in 10 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 the roles and responsibilities of staff in terms of animal welfare; based on the 3R principles (Reduce, Replace, Refine studies on animals) and the Virbac charter, 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 principles of ethics (dependence, impartiality, absence of conflict of interest) and functioning (category of members imposed, ethical evaluation of studies, deliberation, vote, etc.); they review 100% of studies, which can only be conducted after obtaining their approval.
  • With regard to outsourced studies, the Group imposes the same level of requirement on its partners: CRO (Contract research organizations), universities, etc. These requirements include the establishment of an ethics committee within them, the deployment of strict procedures for monitoring their studies and respect for animal welfare and regulations.

Key actions implemented

  • The 3R rule, now recognized as the international standard for animal studies, is our guiding principle for the design and conduct of studies in our laboratories and in our partners, but also for promoting alternative methods 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. 
  • The various initiatives (negotiations with regulatory agencies to eliminate routine tests, production of batches dedicated to countries that do not require animal tests, replacement with in vitro methods, etc.) continue to bear fruit; they have reduced the number of domestic carnivores used to release vaccine batches by 91% and commit to the objective of reducing 50% of animals in quality control.
  • In this context, Virbac Australia announced at the end of 2020 the release of its first vaccine batches using in vitro activity tests. This is, after several years of development, 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.

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 extended and helps maintain our goal of guaranteeing a foster family for 100% of adoptable dogs and cats.

Tableau adoption_EN.svg

OUR RESULTS

Performance indicators  2018 2019 2020
Number of animals used for R&D studies 5,773 6,664 6,148
Number of animals used for quality controls 36,361 27,917 23,377
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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