Eli Lilly ($LLY) has been doubling down on its efforts to invent new animal vaccines–opening a 48,000-square-foot research facility near its Indianapolis headquarters, for example, that its animal health division, Elanco, will use for R&D. On the production-animal side of the business, Elanco’s bread and butter until now has been cattle and swine products, but the company is looking to expand into a rapidly growing corner of food production where it has had virtually no presence: aquaculture.

Drugs and vaccines for farmed fish account for only 3% of Elanco’s business, while swine and cattle products are 16% and 32% respectively, estimated Rob Aukerman, Elanco’s vice president of new business strategy and development, during a presentation in Frutillar, Chile, according to the fish industry publication Undercurrent News.

But aquaculture, he vowed, is “going to be a lot bigger going forward. When we go for something we really go for it.”

Aukerman was in Chile to launch Imvixa, a drug for treating the parasite Caligus, known colloquially as sea lice. The disease costs the Chilean salmon industry $300 million a year in costs and lost production, according to Undercurrent News. Lilly worked with two salmon farming companies and a feed supplier to develop the drug, which was approved in Chile on August 4.

Aquaculture is widely seen as the next frontier in animal health. In late 2015, Elanco rival Zoetis ($ZTS) took a huge leap into the industry by paying $765 million to acquire Norway-based Pharmaq. Zoetis CEO Juan Ramón Alaix estimated at the time that farmed fish represent 50% of all consumed seafood worldwide and that fish consumption is growing faster than that of any other form of protein.

Lilly’s Aukerman estimates that food production will need to grow 70% by 2050 to feed a global population of 9 billion, Undercurrent News reports. That’s one of the reasons the company wants to expand its offerings for fish farmers.

The approval of Imvixa comes close on the heels of the European approval of Clynav, Elanco’s DNA vaccine to prevent salmon pancreas disease in north Atlantic salmon. But there will be many more innovations to come, Aukerman says. “We have a lot going for us in this industry,” Aukerman said during the presentation in Chile. “We just need to double down efforts.”

– read more at Undercurrent News (reg. req.)

Comments are closed.