* USDA says preliminary studies on vaccine look promising
* Zoetis explores international markets for product
* Stock price hits record high
(Adds USDA comment, stock price)
By P.J. Huffstutter and Tom Polansek
CHICAGO, Sept 3 Zoetis Inc has received
a conditional license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture
for its vaccine against a deadly piglet virus and will begin
selling it this month in the United States, the company said on
Shares of Zoetis, the world's largest animal-health company,
reached an all-time high of $36.65 and were up 0.7 percent at
$35.73 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
With its new vaccine, Zoetis joins a growing push by both
the agriculture and pharmaceutical industries to combat the
spread of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv), which has
killed about 13 percent of the U.S. hog herd over the past year.
Results from preliminary studies on the product have been
"promising," said Joelle Hayden, spokeswoman for USDA's Animal
and Plant Health Inspection Service.
"They've shown sufficient data that we think the vaccine
will be effective," she said about Zoetis.
The vaccine comes as veterinarians warn that outbreaks of
the virus are expected to surge this fall and winter because
PEDv thrives in cold weather.
Zoetis' product means that hog farmers now have two PEDv
vaccine options. Earlier this year, USDA granted a similar
conditional approval to Iowa-based Harrisvaccines for its PEDv
Merck & Co. Inc's animal health unit is also working
on a PEDv vaccine. Zoetis was spun off from drugmaker Pfizer Inc
The fast-moving virus has killed an estimated 8 million
piglets since it was first identified in the United States last
year, pushing U.S. pork prices to record highs.
The conditional license will allow Zoetis to sell the
two-dose inactivated vaccine directly to veterinarians and hog
farmers alike, for use on healthy pregnant sows, while the
company continues to conduct further tests both in research
laboratories and in field tests at customers' farms.
Zoetis declined to comment on the company's research, how
successful the vaccine has been in reducing mortality rates in
baby pigs or what field tests have shown so far. Company
officials did not say how much the vaccine will cost.
"We have proven at least some efficacy of those antibodies
produced with the sow of being transferred to the baby piglets,"
Gloria Basse, vice president of the company's U.S. pork
marketing, said in an interview.
Zoetis said it was exploring new international markets,
including Canada, Mexico and Japan, for the vaccine. Concerns
over the virus have fueled contamination fears among U.S.
trading partners and prompted a four-month ban on imports of
live U.S. pigs into China.
"Really anywhere there's a customer need, that's where we
are going to be involved in the discussion around product
relevance," said Catherine Knupp, president of research and
development for Zoetis. She said the company would look for
local partnerships for such projects.
(Editing by Jo Winterbottom and Grant McCool)