Can we expect innovations with regards to influenza?
“To protect birds and of course also to protect humans, avian influenza would be very high on the radar screen of the combined company. We also believe influenza is still an issue we should tackle on the swine side. So there will be a strong focus in the future on influenza for swine and poultry.
“The big topic of influenza is the virus’ rapid shifts of genetic structure. We know this from the human side. So the question is: How quickly can we follow and how relevant are our strains to deal with new outbreaks?”
How does the acquisition of Merial allow you to act quicker?
“With vaccines, you have to be close to markets. You need to have the full value chain for vaccines: R&D, a robust supply chain organisation, and commercial. As soon as something emerges, you need to react quickly.
“To build global hubs is part of our animal health strategy at BI, and this would be vastly accelerated through the acquisition of Merial. We already have a strong presence in the US; a couple of years ago we established an R&D site in China and we are now in the process of finalising and validating our Chinese manufacturing facility. Apart from our veterinary research centre in Hanover, we are missing this presence in Europe. And Merial, in Lyon, perfectly complements that strategy of having the full value chain on a large scale in the US, Europe and China.”
How will Boehringer Ingelheim and Merial present themselves at EuroTier 2016?
“Absolutely separate! Both companies are two separate entities. Until closing of the transaction, Boehringer Ingelheim and Sanofi/Merial continue to be independent companies. Closing is expected by year-end 2016. Until then we cannot share any confidential information on pipeline projects, and we can also not work together commercially.”
Boehringer Ingelheim’s animal health division is strongly focused on prevention through vaccines. What is your take on antibiotics?
“As a veterinarian, I will always defend the use of antibiotics as a drug of last resort for animals. However, if a system only works through use of massive antibiotics, I say something is wrong. And we should rather do something about what’s wrong than covering problems with antibiotics. So we as mankind I think have been a little too careless with antibiotics."
Where will meat consumption go in the future?
“Right now, we can divide the world animal protein market into two trends. One is the growing population, people being able to afford animal protein, that is the trend in emerging markets in Asia. But I think there’s an equally powerful trend that if we don’t convince consumers in the western world they can feel good about eating meat, meat consumption will go down. Feeling good about eating meat means that it is OK to raise this animal, kill it and have it eaten. For me, it will always be special to eat meat. You won’t see me leave a piece of meat on a plate because I know what’s behind it to produce it and what happened to produce it. I believe the future is in less meat but in higher quality and hence prices. If you talk to customers, they are faced with so many short-term problems that for them it is difficult to see those bigger problems and how to get out of them.”
Is it possible to feed 9 billion people and produce so much meat when everybody would like to eat as much meat as in the western world nowadays?
“If we really must feed the world, we shouldn’t go through feed conversion. Living in a healthy fashion is not trivial. If you have meat included in your diet, you’re on a much safer path to a balanced nutrition and a healthy life than if you cut it out completely; that is my deep conviction. But this is not by eating 1 kg of meat every day."
You can also balance it?
“Exactly. That’s why I think the future is in value. Now the question is how to unlock that value. Right now the retailers just want to sell meat to attract people to sell the rest of their portfolio. I think it’s wrong; it’s the wrong way to attract people. I think meat should not be cheap.”
Joachim Hasenmaier is member of the board of managing directors at Boehringer Ingelheim, responsible for the Corporate Board Divisions Animal Health and Consumer Health Care. Prior to that, he held various managing positions within the company, e.g. heading the global animal health business (2001-2011), as well as at Hoechst Roussel Vet and Intervet. He graduated from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany, with a doctorate in veterinary medicine. He holds an MBA from Kellogg Business School at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL, United States.
Co-author: Vincent ter Beek