The COVID-19 pandemic re-focussed attention on how zoonotic diseases can disrupt human lives and have a long-term impact on global health. Given the fact that 60 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases reported globally are zoonotic in nature, it is obvious that ensuring the health of animals, ranging from pets to commercial livestock, will nip emerging zoonotic threats before they get out of hand.
As Dr K Anand Kumar, Managing Director, Indian Immunologicals, informed, “Thirty new pathogens have been identified in the last three decades and 75 per cent of them are from animals. One billion cases of illness and millions of deaths occur due to zoonoses. Given the above background, human health is directly linked to animal health.”
There is no doubt of the market opportunity. As per the Indian Federation of Animal Health Companies (INFAH), the animal healthcare market in India is estimated to be around Rs 7,000 crore in 2021-22, comprising livestock (55 per cent), poultry (33 per cent), companion animals (eight per cent), aqua (three per cent) and one per cent for other remaining animals.
Although there is no published data, INFAH estimates that nutritional products make up the bulk of this animal health products at 39 per cent, followed by paraciticides (20 per cent), antibacterials (17 per cent), biologicals (13 per cent), and 11 per cent from other categories. There are reportedly nearly>50 major companies operating in India’s animal health market, though the market is dominated by top 10 players, as per the INFAH website.
A report from Allied Market Research has revealed that the global animal vaccines market size was valued at $9,039.9 million in 2020, and is projected to reach $15,201.5 million by 2030, registering a CAGR of 5.2 per cent from 2021 to 2030.
Another company, Hester Biosciences, has also recently entered the pet care market with a holistic line of products for companion animals spanning anti-infective, antiparasitic, liver care, gut health, grooming and nutrition product categories. In addition, commenting on the upward trajectory, Rajiv Gandhi, MD and CEO, Hester Biosciences, noted, “India is a growing market in terms of diagnostics, advanced nutrition, immunoglobulin therapy, advanced prophylactic therapy and emerging therapies like behaviour modification, obesity management and oncology in pet animals. While these areas are well-established in the western market, in India, we expect to cover over 20 per cent in the coming four-to-five years.”
Similarly, Indian Immunologicals has been in the animal healthcare industry for over three decades, and, as per Dr Kumar, is the only producer of companion animal vaccines in the country. The company’s Raksharab — antirabies vaccine is the leading brand in its segment, and has 50 per cent of the market share, while vaccines Megavac 6 and Megavac 7 hold 35 per cent of the market share.
Indian Immunologicals is also the only producer of companion animal vaccines in the country, claimed Dr Kumar. “All other companies import the vaccine for sale in India. There are many companies in India that make formulations for use in the pet care market. Very few formulations are imported into the country by multinational companies. Worldwide, the animal health market is comprised of 52.7 per cent for pet care and 47.3 per cent for livestock. In India, however, the pet care market is only eight per cent and the rest 72 per cent is for livestock. This leaves a huge opportunity for the pet care market in India to grow.
Explaining why animal health is a crucial part of global health, Dr Kumar pointed out, “With diminishing land holdings and deforestation, domestic and wildlife are in close proximity and spillover of pathogens to humans as result is inevitable. It is imperative to adopt the ‘one health’ philosophy to ensure all living creatures remain healthy.
“Indian Immunologicals is a one-health company, and we produce several vaccines in the ‘one health’ area such as rabies vaccine, brucellosis vaccine, vaccine for leptospirosis, etc. We also developed the world’s first vaccine for porcine cysticercosis (Cysvax),” he added.
As per an analysis by Data Bridge Market Research, the companion animal vaccines market is expected to undergo a CAGR of 5.60 per cent during forecast to 2029. This indicates that the market value, which was $3007.17 million in 2021, would rocket up to $4650.17 million by 2029.
The ‘one health’ approach
‘One health’ is built on the understanding that animal health, human health and our shared environment form part of an inter-connected system. What affects one will ultimately affect the others. For example, rabies is still a devastating viral disease in humans in some parts of the world, and dog bites are associated with 96 per cent of morbidity and mortality. Vaccinating dogs (pets and stray, both) against rabies can prevent its transfer to humans and save lives. Every year, more than 59,000 people still die due to rabies infection, highlighted the Intas spokesperson.
Estimates suggest that more than six out of every 10 known infectious diseases can spread from animals to humans, and three out of every four new or emerging diseases in people come from animals. Thirteen zoonoses are responsible for 2.4 billion cases of human illness and 2.2 million deaths per year. Among them, six zoonotic disease outbreaks cost the world an estimated $120 billion globally between 1995 and 2008. As per researchers, 3/4th of the new and emerging diseases are zoonotic and come from the wildlife, said the Intas spokesperson.
In 2011, the Kenya government instituted one of the world’s first ‘one health office’ in their administration, combining the staff from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture. Early warning systems for wildlife could help detect emerging diseases before they reach people. Although, animal health research and development support can help pave the way for new technologies for disease control.
In India, too, under the genesis of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), an exclusive ‘one health’ centre is being established in Nagpur, Maharashtra. With its cohesive multi-sectorial team, the centre would study the different diseases causing pathogens in domestic and wild animals for better preparedness to contain illnesses that humans may get in the future, according to this spokesperson.
The implementation of ‘one health’ has been targetted by India’s Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) under One Health India project which has already been initiated in two states namely Uttarakhand and Karnataka.
Dr Kumar further mentioned that Indian Immunologicals has had significant interests in both animal health and human health predating the COVID-19 pandemic. “We believe in “disease prevention” more than “disease treatment.” Vaccines are safe on the environment and have significantly led to the reduction in the use of antibiotics, and, thereby, antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Every year, 1.27 million deaths are attributed to AMR by the World Health Organization (WHO). Companies will focus on developing vaccines for many organisms that have developed resistance to the leading class of antibiotics. Companies will also work on new-generation vaccines as the existing vaccines in some cases, such as the BCG vaccine for tuberculosis, are not effective in prevention of the disease.
Authorities, compliance and markets
The drugs, pharmaceuticals and biologicals intended and licensed for pet use have to follow the stringent regulatory process routed through the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOH&FW). The Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) provides No Objection Certificate (NOC) as part of the Empowered Committee for Animal Health under the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying (MoFAHD).
At times, the products already approved in the regulated markets can have a faster approval process, which usually takes two years to get a similar new product and launch in the market by companies. For biologicals, depending on the bacterial or viral strain involved, its approvals could be attained in around two-to-three years. Nutraceuticals and food products can be launched comparatively in a shorter period, informed the spokesperson from Intas.
Dr Kumar also mentioned that vaccines are governed by both the state and central licensing authorities. He highlighted, “Multiple approvals are required, and the process of licensure involves several steps and takes several years. Efforts are being made by CDSCO to streamline and reduce the number of process steps without compromising on the quality, safety and efficacy aspects.”
The way ahead
While the sizeable livestock and poultry markets will continue to grow, the pet care market is slated to grow exponentially, as rising income levels spur more people to keep companion animals and/or pets in their homes. Health researchers indicate that making a dog, cat or bird part of the family provides strong encouragement to lead a healthy lifestyle. The changing patterns of pet adoption in India highlight the share of the young generation as the most significant, compared to the rest of the age groups. During COVID and post-COVID, the number of firstpet households have seen an extraordinary increase in two years, and this trend continues.
Like humans, animals too will benefit from increased research focus and funding during the pandemic. For instance, many new platforms for the manufacturing of vaccines such as mRNA and adenoviral vector-based are emerging on the back of the success of the use of such technologies in COVID-19 vaccines. Combination vaccines that offer tremendous advantages to the customers will be pursued. Alternative
needle-free vaccines that offer ease of administration such as oral, intra-nasal vaccines will emerge.
All in all, the ‘one health’ approach seems an imperative with no alternative, if we are to prevent future pandemics. And animal health-focussed companies like Indian Immunologicals, Hester Biosciences and Intas Pharma will continue to play an important role in preventing future zoonotic threats.