Biovet, an integrated animal health company, has invested Rs 1.8 crore to open Asia's first bio-safety level 4 BSL-4 production plant at the Malur in the outskirts of Bangalore for manufacture of Food & Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine for the first time in the country by the private sector.

Food & Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine is developed with a strain from the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Izatnagar. The product will be supplied through a central government sponsored vaccination drive where the vaccine will be made available at Rs 6.50 and will be exported abroad at around $2 per vaccine.

The unit has come up on the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) land. The company managed to generate grants from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Technology Development Board (TDB), besides funding from the banks like ICICI and State Bank of India. The core focus of the Bharat Biotech promoted enterprise is research, product development, manufacture and test animal health care products.

According to Dr SM Singh, FMD is a trade barrier threat to India and just as diseases like Rhinderpest were controlled, this virus infection would also be checked. All cloven-footed animals like cattle, buffaloes, bulls and bullocks are susceptible to the dreaded disease. Therefore, FMD vaccine is indispensable to India, which is the largest producer of milk in the world.

The FMD free status for India will boost meat sales as goat and sheep products are banned from India. In addition, many countries have stopped importing milk from India. The annual loss due to FMD in India is estimated at Rs 20,000 crore (US$5 billion.). There are no private Indian animal vaccine manufacturing companies in India for large animals. Currently, majority of the biological units are government owned. Production of vaccines like FMD needs BSL-3, an BSL-4 containment facility.

There are four levels of safety in animal disease control: BSL-1 results out of unknown material to cause the disease. BSL-2 is to prevent hazards from injury and mucous membrane exposure. BSL -3 is for protection of disease with lethal consequence and BSL4 is for diseases that pose a high risk to life. The facility has a capacity to produce 60 million doses and this will be augmented to 100 million by the year-end and 200 million thereafter. Currently, the vaccine is in the final stages of development and is slated for commercialization in the next few months. The containment and safety measures of the facility are a first-of-its-kind in the country and is the second research facility with high-level protection norms after the government owned Indian Council of Agricultural Research Centre at Bhopal for bird avian flu diagnosis.

After the company consolidates its production in FMD vaccine, it will look at other animal vaccines including rabies and Johns disease.