Research and Development (R&D) are at the center of an innovation-driven company like Merial.
R&D’s role is vital in shaping the future success of Merial. Our mission is to deliver and support effective, innovative, safe, and cost-effective animal health products that are designed to meet our customers’ needs. These products will be based on appropriate scientific data to ensure the Merial quality standard and the health, welfare, and performance of animals. Merial operates eight R&D centers around the world.
The role of R&D is to take a concept from molecule to market with a focus on innovative ways of improving animal health and productivity. In a recent review it was noted that five of the top 10 vaccine innovations in the 1990s came from Merial laboratories.
Merial is renowned both for basic biological research and development of new technologies. These strengths have enabled us to discover new therapies, advances in immunology and molecular biology, and new formulations. Merial is also noted for development of new compounds intended specifically for the veterinary market, as well as the successful transition of human medicines to animal use. What sets us apart from other companies is our knowledge base, which encompasses diverse specialties yet also has the necessary in-depth expertise in key disciplines. We employ more than 100 veterinarians, engineers, biochemists, chemists, physicists, and others with advanced degrees.
Our research quest is to identify or discover new compounds, vaccines, technologies, disease processes, and infectious agents, as well as to be at the forefront in recognizing new opportunities and solutions to improve animal health. We study diseases, biological processes, and the changes associated with normal aging in order to create pharmaceutical and biological products to improve the quality of life and performance of animals.
Development is a long process and takes a compound from “proof of concept” to the veterinarian, animal owner, or producer. The development process establishes the safety, efficacy, and manufacturing standards of the product to satisfy Merial’s internal requirements for quality; it also ensures that the data will meet or exceed external regulatory requirements in markets around the world.
Through biotechnology, chemistry, clinical investigation, formulation development, and registration, R&D brings innovative solutions to problems that are important to Merial’s customers. Merial’s R&D organization is entirely focused on providing outstanding products to meet our customers’ needs.
Guiding a compound from discovery to market takes a long time – five to seven years for a pharmaceutical product for pets, and up to 10 years for a production animal. From the discovery of a new infectious agent, it takes about three years to launch a vaccine. R&D have the resources and talented scientists to bring products to market in the shortest time frame possible.
Our work is very detailed. For instance, a strain of virus in the United States may not be the same as in Europe, and so different vaccines may need to be developed to address a similar disease in these two areas. Our expertise and technologies in vaccine R&D allow us to seize opportunities to meet new disease outbreaks in specific regions.
If we identify a chemical compound as being potentially useful in fighting diseases or parasites in animals, a team of experts is assembled from many different areas in Merial to steer it through the research and development process. The team defines the uses and efficacy of the compound, the amount and the frequency of use, possible side effects, and the most suitable way to manufacture and store it. A framework is set up to ensure it is tested within established boundaries and according to all regulatory guidelines.
The compound is included in an appropriately innovative formulation, and sophisticated analytical techniques are applied to measure product quality. Extensive studies are carried out to assess the product’s effectiveness and safety – and its stability in different environments. By studying how the chemical is distributed in an animal’s body, the team can determine any tissue residue it may leave and can modify formulation or even chemical structure of the molecule if required. A sample product or “biobatch” is manufactured to ensure the compound can be mass-produced, and the team determines an optimal treatment regimen.
Field tests are then carried out at research centers around the world, and global marketing experts begin to develop the product image. The manufacturing site is chosen and the team begins to troubleshoot any problems, including testing for manufacturing impurities to ensure the product is ready for the next round of tests – field trials to determine climatic or geographic limits of the product. Research data are assembled and submitted to government regulatory agencies across the world to begin the approval process. Launch plans are developed, regulatory approval is obtained, and a final technical review takes place.
R&D’s role is vital in shaping the future success of Merial, and our commitment is to develop innovative products that will serve our customers’ needs. We will continue to apply our technology platforms to different animals and changing circumstances and to pursue the science behind genomics to identify functional genetic markers and to define pharmaceutical and vaccine targets. These are new and fundamentally important areas of science in which Merial is a leading innovator.