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GALVmed highlights expanding role in engaging the private sector in emerging markets

The Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) has sourced investment of around $150 million during its first decade of existence. Animal Pharm editor Joseph Harvey traveled to the charity's headquarters in Edinburgh to find out how this funding has translated into success.

Over the past five years, under the remit of its Protecting Livestock Improving Human Lives program, GALVmed has added an extra dimension to its work in developing nations.

While the charity began life aiming to develop improved veterinary medicines suited to the needs of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, it has now added market development to its strategy – a move that has seen it increasingly engage with the private sector.

Presently, GALVmed's work falls within three categories: leading product development; stimulating market demand; and addressing policy constraints.

In the video below, Peter Jeffries – GALVmed chief executive – explains to Animal Pharm the three prongs of GALVmed's work. He gives examples of the charity's work in R&D, market development and policy. Dr Jeffries also highlights the important role partners play in GALVmed's work.

Product development

Dr Jeffries said there has always been a lot of research being conducted that may benefit smallholder farmers. However, he suggested a lot of this research has not been translated into registered products.

GALVmed's product-focused work aims to change that, especially in the area of vaccines. In particular, GALVmed accelerates the development of effective vaccines that are specifically beneficial for the smallholder farmer. This includes work on animal African trypanosomosis, East Coast fever (ECF) and Rift Valley fever, as well as its involvement in AgResults' Global Brucellosis Vaccine Prize Competition.

Using ECF as an example, Dr Jeffries said while an effective parasitic vaccine has been available for around 40 years, the production process has never been optimized nor has the product been reliably available for smallholder farmers. GALVmed has completed transfer of manufacturing to a site in Malawi and is addressing production process improvements in a bid to ensure reliable production and reduce production costs.

Additionally, GALVmed aims to increase access to products that are already readily available. This involves projects such as registering smaller pack sizes for Newcastle disease vaccines, developing improved formulation and improving the thermo-tolerance levels of biologicals.

Market development

Dr Jeffries said smallholder farms are generally underserved by the animal health industry – something that is not a surprise.

Most of the leading animal health companies sell their products in Africa through distribution arrangements with commercial farms. However, this only covers a small percentage of the African opportunity and leaves smallholder farms by the wayside. This is where GALVmed aims to offer solutions.

"Compared to the commercial markets in many African countries, smallholder farms are much harder to access," Dr Jeffries explained. "But in many cases, the smallholder sector is larger than the commercial sector."

This lack of attention to smallholders from the animal health industry is something that has been key to GALVmed's work in recent years.

"First of all, we were focused on product development and the low-hanging fruit that were out there. Over the past 10 years, we've registered around 10 products including diagnostics, vaccines and pharmaceuticals.

"But you can have all the products in the world – if no-one is willing to buy them, then where does that get you? So we started looking at stimulating market demand. This began on a village level with just a few households in a few countries. Now, in collaboration with private sector partners, we're looking at a much bigger regional approach with input to several million households."

So, over the past five years, GALVmed has added market development to its core focuses. This has given the charity's work a more holistic perspective.

"GALVmed is only around 30 people, so we need to rely on our many partners," Dr Jeffries told Animal Pharm. "Initially, this was with non-governmental organizations on a local level. Now, we're working more with commercial companies, from smaller regional players through to multinationals.

"We are making some progress but there is still a huge amount still to be done. We need to make sure it's a market that is demand-driven and not product-pushed."

These firms include Brentec Vaccines in Uganda, Morocco's MCI Santé Animale and Hester Biosciences from India.

However, through its VITAL program, GALVmed will develop partnerships with some of the industry's top players. Dr Jeffries has insight into how the leading animal health companies function – he was previously group director of business development and external alliances at Pfizer Animal Health, subsequently Zoetis.

"We want to provide assistance in de-risking the smallholder sector," he said. "It's a high-risk approach for the big companies. Five years ago there was no interest at all in smallholder farms. We work closely with the private sector. We apply private sector principles and rigor to the smallholder sector.

"In many countries where we work, there remains a distrust of the private sector. Many people think they are out to destroy local businesses. It's a highly politically charged region. We have got to get through that and show governments and smallholder farmers the benefits of working with the private sector.

"We are making some progress but there is still a huge amount still to be done. We need to make sure it's a market that is demand-driven and not product-pushed."

The drive for a greater involvement with large pharmaceutical companies came largely from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Last year, the Gates Foundation issued grants to both Zoetis and Elanco to improve Africa's animal health infrastructure, address a deficiency in available products, support smallholder farmers and essentially de-risk businesses' route into Africa.

Dr Jeffries said there has been a sea change in the top companies' thinking with regards to Africa. Eight out of the top 10 veterinary medicine firms now have African strategies, he told Animal Pharm.

Samuel Thevasagayam, head of the foundation's livestock initiative within its agriculture development program, previously told Animal Pharm about this focus on bringing animal health's biggest players to Africa.

Policy work

According to Dr Jeffries, an undisclosed international animal health company is the first business to submit a dossier through a harmonized regulatory process in East Africa. He said more companies are expected to follow this pathway soon.

"GALVmed has really been leading the charge on regulatory harmonization in Africa," he told Animal Pharm. "It is something we work a lot on, as it is a critical component of future access to veterinary medicines for smallholder farmers."

GALVmed's work in this area began in 2012, when it launched an initiative to stimulate harmonization of registration requirements in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. At this point, only three of these countries possessed a recognized registration system (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda).

The charity's policy work is focused on regulatory harmonization, establishing the role of the veterinary paraprofessional and helping to build regional industry associations.

History of investment

GALVmed was established in 2008 with seed funding from the UK government's Department for International Development (DFID), largely based on the vision of Ian Maudlin and Mike Witty. Professor Maudlin previously managed the DFID Animal Health Research Programme, while Dr Witty was vice president of R&D at Pfizer Animal Health – both are experts in neglected tropical diseases.

Since its inception, GALVmed has benefited from three significant rounds of funding from its two major donors, the Gates Foundation and DFID. Over the years, other donors have also provided significant support to GALVmed's work.

The involvement of the Gates Foundation with GALVmed was the former's first funding in the livestock sector. GALVmed is currently funded 80% by the Gates Foundation and 20% by DFID.

Dr Jeffries said GALVmed works with its donors collaboratively to earmark potential projects and areas of unmet need. This means the funding model for each project tends to be different.

One area proposed by the Gates Foundation and DFID was a novel treatment for trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness. Trypanosomiasis is currently served by two widely-used and highly-genericized products to which there are increasing problems of resistance. GALVmed is working on a novel group of molecules that demonstrate efficacy in control of trypanosomiasis.

GALVmed is currently working on around 15 projects split between product development and market development.

Dr Jeffries said it can be hard to put a figure on the success of GALVmed's projects as there is a lack of market data for the sub-Saharan and South Asian regions. GALVmed has its own set of data points it uses to quantify the beneficial impact in a region, based on projected mortality rates, cost of vaccine interventions and the average value of an animal.

By GALVmed's internal calculations using these data points, the return on investment for its projects is typically at least three-to-one. This figure does not take into account the extra work the charity carries out in market development and its work in establishing healthy regional policy.

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