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Innovation in human medicine has been impressive in the past few decades. It has spanned from small molecules to targeted treatments to precision medicine to gene therapy. We are living in a world where there’s hope that the ambitious moonshot medicine goal might even be achieved in our lifetimes. As a human practitioner, I could see the real impact these advancements had on my patients. The innovative tools ranged from basic treatments like the emergence of the non-sedating antihistamine class, helping me keep the seasonal allergy patients functional (and safe) to the complex and stunning impact of the addition of rituximab to the CHOP treatment therapy regimen for Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients.
As I evolved in my career and became a veterinarian, I found a disturbing lack of tools and innovation momentum in the animal health space. New treatments lag years and even decades behind what I had in hand to treat my human patients. It is difficult to explain to a veterinary client why “human” conditions, like diabetes or cancer, are so much more difficult to treat in their pet. It is difficult to explain to a producer, why we are relying on dated vaccine technologies and antibiotic treatment therapies to manage bovine respiratory disease complex.
The juxtaposition of my two clinical careers is almost uncanny. On one side of my career, I had access to the latest-and-greatest, and on the other hand, I was frustrated because of the lack of more options to provide better care to my patients. The great lag in animal health innovation is what inspired me to join an animal health company. My focus was on bringing the next era of cutting-edge treatments to animals. With innovation in animal health, we can change the course of our world for generations to come.
"It is difficult to explain to a veterinary client why “human” conditions, like diabetes or cancer, are so much more difficult to treat in their pet"
Consider some of the fundamental and seemingly insurmountable global challenges that impact our health, the health of animals and the health of our environment.
• More than 10 percent of the world’s population suffers from malnourishment
• 20 percent of production animals globally are being lost to death and disease
• Earth’s resources were used 1.7 times faster than we can replenish them last year. We are running our resources dry with no clear-cut way to slow down our consumption or produce more
Historically, the animal health industry has focused on reinventing “old” science or solving problems with a quick win, a short-term mindset. What if we could shift our focus to solve the most complex global needs vital to the future of our health and the health of our planet? What if we could cohesively address higher production, sustainability, consumer safety and improve animal well-being?
As an industry, we can bring cutting-edge technologies that enable improved health and productivity using environmentally sustainable methods. We can provide protein that feeds a growing population and embrace the consumer demand to know what is used to produce their food. We are looking beyond antibiotic stewardship and into vaccines and microbiome strategies that protect animals from health challenges while improving producer efficiency and economics. We know that dogs, cats and other companion species help our mental and physical health. They are suffering from many of the same conditions and diseases we see in humans. Ensuring we have treatments that address concerns of aging pets is critical to protect and extend those lives and preserve that magical human-animal bond.
As the leader of a global animal health company’s research and external innovation team, it is my responsibility to lead our team to relentlessly pursue innovation in animal health. Over the past four years, Elanco has delivered11 new innovative medicines to four-legged patients that prevent diseases, address chronic disease states and help us manage foodborne disease risk. I have confidence that with some of the greatest minds in the life science industry, we can continue to rigorously deliver products to improve the health of animals. At Elanco, we are committed to innovation, with more than 100 active R&D programs balanced across species and technology platforms with a typical development timeline between 5-10 years.
If we remain invested in animal health and truly committed to bringing innovation forward, we have the potential to see great evolution of the animal health industry. This first true era of innovation will position us well to tackle the looming global health challenges for animals, intersecting with people and the Earth.
Like all doctors, no matter the species, it has always been my mission to provide the best care to my patients. As a doctor leading innovation efforts inside an animal health company, if I do my job right, I don’t just help my patients I can see a week, but rather have the potential to improve the lives of millions of animals around the world.