Welcome and MSD Animal Health News


Welcome to the first 2017 edition of eMergence. We have continued to follow transboundary and emerging diseases across the world, watching and responding as diseases spread or change. We have a number of methods for gathering the information and continue to find new approaches for surveillance but please, feel that you can always contact us with additional information. By keeping ahead of these diseases we can hopefully reduce their impact.


In October Erwin van den Born and Marta Nowak from MSD Animal Health attended the EuFMD Open Session in Cascais, Portugal, hosted by the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EuFMD).

The leading theme of the meeting was the practice of innovation and the focus was on challenges and lessons from the field. The clear message delivered during that meeting was that input from the field is essential in making FMD control feasible for endemic countries and helping them fit their projects into the global strategy. Despite many tools available, including early alert systems, e-learning and informatics tools for epidemic management, successful FMD control needs continuous evaluation in order to translate science into improved disease management. There was a variety of topics in the presentations among which, countries’ preparedness and modeling tools for decision making on better response strategies. Studies and tools to aid strain selection for vaccine bank managers and the economic impact of crisis management were other key points of discussion. In addition to presentations, we participated in group discussions on the efficacy of vaccines and the need to evaluate vaccination campaign performance.



Erwin van den Born presented research currently underway on the novel FMD capsids technology and its potential as a commercially viable alternative to conventional killed vaccines. In further support of science, MSD Animal Health sponsored an award for the best presentation during the conference. Dr. Wudu Temesgen Jemberu from Ethiopia was selected for his innovative approach focusing on the farmers’ perceptions and their role in identifying barriers to FMD control.

Notes were made of some new incursions and unpredictable strain movements linked to political migrations. The incursion of A/Asia/GVII/2015 strain in West Eurasia and the current gap in coverage by available vaccines was a key focus.  It was highlighted that FMD-free buffer zones should be protected and that more attention should be given to developing optimal surveillance systems.

Among discussions on disease spread, Lumpy Skin Disease and the demand for vaccine in Europe were discussed and we were able to take some key messages in anticipation of developments in 2017, including the new vaccine requirements.

Rabies in the Americas

Alasdair King attended the Rabies in the Americas conference in Brazil, an annual meeting that discussed the disease since 1990.  Especially important for MSD Animal Health were days two and three which focused on rabies in domestic animals and vaccines.  There was a very interesting presentation and discussion on dog behavior in cities, The Influence Of Urban Structures On Free- Roaming Dog Ecology In Arequipa, Peru by Ricardo Castillo-Neyra, with GPS collars tracking the dogs movements was especially interesting.  Further work with GPS collars will be important for better understanding of how human-canine interactions can affect spread of disease.

International Poultry Council

During October the IPC held its Second Semester Conference in Cascais, Portugal.  As part of the conference the Animal Health and Welfare group gave feedback on antibiotics usage.  This is a complex area investigating how to maintain good animal health while being aware and responding to the threat of antimicrobial resistance.  With both vaccines and antibiotics, MSD Animal Health is able to take a rounded view of the issue and reinforce that there is no single solution.  We will continue to work with the animal health industry to tackle this issue.

New Associate Director

I am pleased to announce that the Intergovernmental Veterinary Health team has been joined by John Atkinson in the role of Associate Director.  Some of you will already know John from EuFMD and OIE meetings.  John qualified as a veterinary surgeon in 2006 after first completing a Marine and Environmental Biology degree.  He worked in practice for four years before joining the Ruminant Business Unit, MSD Animal Health in the UK.  As well as managing the Ruminant Technical team, John has completed a Diploma in Marketing and has been working with us on FMD and Lumpy Skin Disease.  As an additional member of the IVH team, John will be able to help improve our levels of partnership with governments around the world and will be an added resource for support.

Bringing Sight to Africa

Scott Cocking, of our Global Commercial Operations of MSD Animal Health, just returned as a Richard T. Clark (RTC) Fellow from three months in rural Tanzania as part of the MSD Fellowship for Global Health (known as the Merck Fellowship for Global Health in the US and Canada.) This program pairs the best minds from MSD with non-profit partner organizations around the world to provide meaningful and systematic improvements in health service delivery for people in the greatest need.  Between 2012 and 2016, 130 RTC Fellows from 22 countries have worked with 33 nonprofit organizations. It is one of many ways that MSD shows its commitment to solving public health issues.

Scott joined the programme to work with Sightsavers International. Together with MSD colleagues from Australia and Switzerland they were tasked with addressing issues related to refractive error,  a disorder that does not allow someone to see clearly because their eyes can’t focus on near or far objects due to an irregular shape of the eye. Their specific goal was to create a business model to increase the uptake of spectacles/eyeglasses among middle aged adults, many of whom were working poor. An often underappreciated area, research shows the economic benefit of correcting presbyopia (farsightedness due to aging) can have a significant impact on productivity and economic gain at the individual and country level. Working with local officials in Singida Region and the Singida Regional Hospital Eye Care Unit, his team was able to demonstrate the value of an integrated approach—education, referral, screening, purchase and trial—delivered together in a single community event. Importantly, it also demonstrated that pairing medically appropriate demand creation with local supply availability could generate significant revenue even among the poorest populations. Ultimately, they were successful in showing that this approach— an integrated model with revenue generation— could lead towards the prospect of a sustainable business model for refractive error correction.

Education RCT

Scott Cocking working with RTC Fellowship.


Build A Bear

IVH is part of a larger team within MSD Animal Health, Global Commercial Operations. As part of our annual meeting in December, we all took part in a volunteer event, stuffing animal toys to be given to the Family and Community Services of Somerset County, NJ who have distributed them to children of families facing challenges through mental health and addiction. It was a fun way to work together and we were pleased to have this opportunity to help.

Alasdair King
Director, Intergovernmental Veterinary Health


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