Animals, like people, suffer from disease and require proper care from the veterinarian, the farmer and the pet owner. When disease occurs, diagnosis and treatment under veterinary care should follow. Whenever possible, prevention is always better than cure. Keeping animals healthy and treating them with dignity is one of the main objectives of the animal health industry and applies equally to companion animals, livestock and wild animals.
Read more about the animal health industry's value to society in our paper: A healthy community depends on healthy animals
The animal health industry strives to be ahead of the game when it comes to animal diseases, especially the zoonotic ones that pass between man and animal. On the initiative of the European Commission, a range of technology platforms were established to drive technological development in various fields. One of these is, the European Technology Platform for Global Animal Health (ETPGAH) – www.etpgah.eu - which focuses on threats to the European animal and human population from emerging diseases, also taking a global perspective.
In similar ways as technology has enhanced our day to day lives, so it has the medical sector, both human and animal. The first use of modern biotechnology in the pharmaceutical industry is recognised as being the first production of human insulin in 1978. Advances in medical science and technology have provided the potential to develop new or improved vaccines, pharmaceuticals and diagnostic tests for the prevention and control of animal disease such as avian influenza, foot-and-mouth disease, rabies and classical swine fever. One of the earliest developments in animal health was an Aujeszky’s disease vaccine, which allowed a successful eradication programme in several European countries. The use of biotechnology and cutting-edge research means that new vaccines can be developed in the future e.g. against diseases for which currently it is impossible to vaccinate.
The EU Framework Programme 7 project DISCONTOOLS - www.discontools.eu - emerged from the work of the ETPGAH and looks at availability of tools for diagnosis, prevention and treatment in order to prioritise research efforts with the goal of accelerating innovation in the field of animal health. The platform is stakeholder-driven and brought together a wide range of researchers in the relevant areas to one table facilitating an exchange of experience.
The 5-year project started in 2008 and should drive the delivery of new and improved diagnostics, vaccines and pharmaceuticals to improve our ability to control animal diseases. Deploying new technologies in the field of animal health area as rapidly as possible is another objective of DISCONTOOLS by developing a blueprint for the identification and evaluation of new technologies.