Many infectious diseases have come through animals, such as the coronavirus. In Spain, Zoetis has opted for the country to increase manufacturing at its Olot (Gerona) plant.
What is the company’s presence in Spain?
We are a biomedical company specialized in animal health. We arose as a spin-off from Pfizer, which was established as Zoetis in 2013. Spain plays a strategic role for the company for two reasons.
The first is that we have a very complete representation in the country. In the commercial part we are 150 collaborators. The production part is located in Olot, Gerona, with 250 workers.
Then we have a research center located in the same town with a group of 40 people. The second factor is because the company is organized in clusters and Spain is the headquarters of southern Europe, which encompasses nine countries, from Portugal to Moldova.
What plans do you have for the Olot plant?
We intend to boost in the future with 100 new hires in the next three years. This is motivated by a significant investment to expand production capacity.
What investment are we talking about?
The investment began two years ago and will culminate in 2023 is 50 million euros. The aim is to increase production significantly, by 60%. By the end of 2022 we must reach 35 million units produced. This implies that the Olot factory will be one of the most powerful in the company worldwide.
What is produced in the Olot factory?
Mainly pharmaceutical drugs vaccines. The weight of the former is greater than that of the latter, due to a specialization that we are carrying out. Therefore, it includes from antiparasitics, anti-infectives, pain and inflation, oncology … The whole range that Zoetis has with the exception of vaccines, where we have a more residual production because there are other Zoetis plants that are more specialized in that aspect.
What is the company’s trade balance in Spain?
We export between 80 and 85% of the production. The rest is internal consumption. The specialization of production plants is a constant. That is why there are plants specialized in biological products and others in pharmacological ones. What has happened in Olot is that in the last 20 years its importance has been growing.
At the beginning we manufactured everything in small quantities to supply Spain. Another important thing that we have is the research and development center that we also have in Olot. There, yes, a lot of biological product research is done because due to the geographical situation we have; Spain is the gateway to Europe for possible diseases that can enter via Africa.
In the last year and a half, in Spain there have been many animal health plants that made vaccines and have also specialized in human use. Why haven’t you opted for that strategy?
We put ourselves at the service of the Government of Spain at the beginning of the pandemic to collaborate. One of the things we wanted to do at the Olot plant was to provide technical support, doing Covid analysis to the entire Olot population, including the hospital. We had direct support in the healthcare part, but as a company we do not have the vocation to enter into human health. We were precisely a spin-off from Pfizer and that process is irreversible.
In any case, there are many links between animal health and human health. One of the serious problems is resistance to antibiotics. Has there been a lot of abuse on the farms with antibiotics?
There are two interesting themes in this question. One of them is the relationship in the world of health. We are very sensitive to the concept of One Health. In other words, understanding that we are talking about health is not the patrimony of doctors, veterinarians or pharmacists; it is a global concept that concerns human, animal and environmental health.
The degradation of the environment produces new diseases. With regard to antibiotic resistance, it is true that it exists and we have to tackle the problem. It is very important because resistant bacteria mean that many patients cannot be adequately treated or do not respond to treatment. Is a delicate topic. Antimicrobials in animal use have been greatly reduced in recent years. Between 2014 and 2019 it has fallen by 60%.
Do resistances also affect animals?
It is not as strong as in humans because the use in animals is less intensive. Yes, it is true that we are working on researching and developing drugs that are totally different to be used only in animals. Until now, in 95% of cases, human antibiotics worked for animals because the pathogens are the same.
What role can a veterinary company play as a warning of pandemics that come from animals?
One of the things we have learned from this pandemic is that you cannot put barriers between animals and people. 70% of contagious diseases in humans are of animal origin. The sooner we can stop them in animals, the less chance they will be transmitted to humans. But there are epidemics like swine fever where the problem is economic, because production ends.