Zoetis forms European research pact to ID emerging animal diseases

Zoetis ($ZTS) has embarked on a new mission to identify and quickly address diseases in livestock and companion animals by capitalizing on the latest advances in genetic sequencing and molecular biology. Toward that end, the company is teaming up with the Easter Bush Research Consortium (EBRC)--a group that includes several Scottish academic and scientific institutions--to form a new European research center headquartered in Edinburgh.

The center will include veterinarians, scientists and technical specialists, Zoetis said in a press release. The company will assist the researchers to identify initial signs of diseases quickly and develop potential treatments.

"A number of potential threats exist within the European area, extending through to Africa and the Middle East as well," said Geoff Simm, vice principal of EBRC member Scotland's Rural College, in the statement. "And with some 75% of emerging human infections originating from animals--including Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and avian influenza--it is vital that we monitor and manage new threats as soon as they begin to appear."

The research consortium will have access to high-tech laboratories and other infrastructure managed by the EBRC, according to Zoetis. That will enable researchers to quickly scrutinize new pathogens and rapidly develop diagnostic and preventive tools to combat them. Some of that work will entail sequencing the genomes of emerging pathogens.

"What we hope to do is identify at a very early stage any new disease appearing in Europe and, reaching out to our partners in Africa and Asia, to pre-identify potential threats, fully sequence them very quickly, and identify routes to diagnostics and therapeutics," said David Hume, Director of the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute, in the statement.

This new initiative will likely strengthen Zoetis' ongoing efforts to rapidly identify and address emerging diseases. The company demonstrated its mettle in that area most recently in September, when it won a conditional approval from the USDA for a vaccine to combat porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv), a disease that has killed an estimated 8 million piglets in the U.S. since it was first identified a little over a year ago.

- here's the release