WASHINGTON, March 17, 2016 - On cue at a national conference of fellow scientists, regulators and industry experts in the animal health sector here Thursday, an Elanco Animal Health expert garnished his comments with descriptions of a new alternative anti-mastitis treatment for milk cows hours before Elanco itself announced its product.

Sponsored by the Farm Foundation and USDA’s Economic Research Service, the symposium is focused on the outlook for expanding the array of effective animal disease-fighting tools, especially those that aren’t antibiotics or, for example, are other antimicrobials specific to the care of farm livestock species.

Which was the topic Tom Campi, a senior Elanco research adviser, was presenting at the conference. The new product, Imrestor, is a cattle protein injected twice into a cow shortly before and after she has her calf, and it helps to fortify her natural immune system. That is a period when a milk cow’s immune system is compromised, and, in Elanco tests, Imrestor reduced mastitis incidence by 28 percent, on average.

“I believe it’s the first non-antibiotic, therapeutic intervention for mastitis that’s ever been approved (by the Food and Drug Administration) in the United States,” Campi said. “It’s not an antibiotic, it’s not a hormone… it’s not GMO (genetically modified). It’s all the right things. This is a bovine-specific product,” he said.

Those attributes put the product in step with the conference and what animal scientists say must happen for future animal health care – in part because mastitis is such a huge target, being the most common milk cow disease treated with antibiotics.

The world’s animal health sector is wrestling with hefty disease fighting challenges, said Catherine Woteki, USDA under secretary for research, education and economics, in opening the conference. “There is a shortage of antimicrobials both commercially available as well as under development,” she said, plus some of those in use face rising pathogen resistance. One strategy to avoiding the advance of resistance problems, she said, has been to develop antimicrobials that are more narrowly targeted to specific pathogens. Trouble is, she said, that means compromising the antimicrobial’s effectiveness. Similarly, she said, the animal health sector’s move to terminate the use of some medically crucial antibiotics in animals “may have adverse consequences on the production, health and welfare of animals.”

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What’s needed to keep the global livestock sector and its food production thriving, despite the challenges, Woteki said, is “a good array of animal health products and remedies.”

Campi, along with Tom Shryock, a former Elanco researcher who heads Antimicrobial Consultants in Greenfield, Indiana, enumerated challenges the animal health sector faces in achieving the new and effective alternative disease preventive and therapeutic remedies. Academic researchers, biotechnology companies, livestock operators and pharmaceutical companies all need sufficient incentives (or freedom from big disincentives) to discover, develop, market and use new solutions, even though there is growing attention to such options as probiotics and essential oils as possible new remedies.

A drug company must try to decide, for example, whether to develop a new product to fight a certain disease, Shryock said, or develop a package of solutions that work together against the disease. “It’s all about having a multitude of things in the toolkit,” he said.
(CLARIFICATION: This story was updated at 2 p.m. on March 18 to remove statement that Elanco's new animal health product, Imprestor, was approved for use on organic dairy farms. Elanco researcher Tom Campi had incorrectly indicated to Agri-Pulse that the product was approved for use in organic dairies.)