September 3, 2014 / 2:10 PM / in 3 years

Zoetis granted conditional license by USDA for PEDv vaccine

CHICAGO, Sept 3(Reuters) - Zoetis Inc, the world’s largest animal-health company, has received a conditional license from the U.S. Agriculture Department for its vaccine against a deadly piglet virus and will begin selling it this month in the United States, the company said on Wednesday.

Zoetis, which was spun off from drugmaker Pfizer Inc last year, 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.

Company officials did not say how much the vaccine will cost.

The new 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’ new 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 vaccine.

Merck & Co. Inc’s animal health unit is also working on a PEDv vaccine.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture could not immediately be reached for comment.

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 ongoing research, how successful the vaccine has been in reducing mortality rates in baby pigs or what field tests have shown so far.

“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.

The company said it is also exploring new international markets for the vaccine, as concerns over the virus fueled contamination fears among U.S. trading partners and prompted a four-month ban on U.S. imports of live pigs into China.

Zoetis is exploring what documentation and research data would be required by various government regulatory bodies to roll out the vaccine - or a similar product - in Canada, Mexico, Japan and parts of Asia, including Korea, Vietnam and Thailand, said Catherine Knupp, president of research and development.

“Really anywhere there’s a customer need, that’s where we are going to be involved in the discussion around product relevance,” Knupp said, noting the company would “look for local partnerships” for such projects. (Additional Reporting By Tom Polanse; Editing by Jo Winterbottom and Jonathan Oatis)

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