Novartis Animal Health: A Healthy Commitment to Aquaculture

October 5, 2012

By Ian Roberts

Every farmer knows the key to success is keeping your animal happy and healthy. So it’s comforting for fish farmers to know that millions of dollars are being invested into research and development for that very purpose.

Novartis Animal Health Aqua business, a business unit of Novartis Animal Health, is doing its part to help ensure that as aquaculture grows worldwide, it helps protect the health of farm-raised seafood.

Compared to terrestrial animal farming and companion animals (pets), the investment into bioscience for aquaculture species has been relatively small. But as aquaculture continues to grow, so does the investment into understanding the challenges and solutions for fish health.

Novartis Animal Health, Victoria, PEI, Canada

This commitment was recently showcased at an open house at Novartis’s expanded 20,000 square foot R&D facility in Victoria, Prince Edward Island.

“The Novartis Animal Health Aqua business is fortunate to be able to draw from the critical capacity of both animal and human health divisions and advance aqua research far beyond what could normally be achieved,” Jason Cleaversmith, Head of Novartis Aqua  Health, PEI, explained at the open house in July. “The assistance of our larger company has helped advance our knowledge that not only provides effective aqua health products today, but will continue to underpin new products and technologies for the future.” 

This company has been a leader in the development of what we humans may take for granted, but fish certainly do not – vaccines. Vaccines are a success story for aquaculture and Novartis Animal Health continues to lead the way in developing this “highly effective preventive medicine”.

In fact, salmon farmers in British Columbia (BC) are very aware of the benefit of vaccines. After the introduction of effective vaccines in the 1990s, fish health challenges have been drastically reduced. Curative medicine use has also decreased significantly – from 500 grams/tonne of salmon 15 years ago to less than 50 grams today.

After a naturally occurring fish virus known as Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis (IHN) had negatively affected a number of salmon farms in the mid 1990s and again in the early 2000s, Novartis responded quickly with a novel vaccine that helps provide farm-raised Atlantic salmon with protection. The APEX-IHN® vaccine became available to salmon farmers in 2005 and Marine Harvest Canada was the first company to vaccinate 100% of its fish. 

In addition, Novartis Animal Health has developed new fish health management tools such as “microdose” formulations and “nucleic acid” technology that further improve vaccine safety and effectiveness for fish.

Given the importance of aquaculture to meet global demand for seafood and also reduce fishing pressure on wild fish stocks, it’s good to know that Novartis Animal Health is right there helping aquaculture continue its healthy growth.