In partnership with InnoCentive, Elanco is running a series of Challenges focused on finding alternatives to animal antibiotics. Elanco provides solutions and products that improve animal health and food-animal production. On September 8, they launched the first two Challenges in the series: Prevention and Control of Mastitis in Cattle and Prevention and Control of Streptoccus suis Infections in Swine. You can find more information and all other Challenge postings on the Elanco Pavilion.
We recently spoke with Aaron Schacht, VP of R&D at Elanco, about the Challenge program.
Hello Aaron, thank you for talking with us. For those not familiar with Elanco, can you tell us a bit about your work in animal health?
Elanco is an animal health company focused on providing world-class therapeutic products for food and companion animals. As the vice president of R&D, my focus is on delivering breakthrough innovations that improve the health of food animals or companion animals. Our organization is committed to scientific discovery that contributes to the therapeutic needs of the animal health industry in an ethical and responsible way.
Can you tell us more about Elanco’s ‘One Health’ initiative and the eight-step antibiotic stewardship plan that comes under this? How does this Challenge program align with them?
As part of our commitment to One Health – our vision of an ecosystem in which healthy people, a healthy environment and healthy animals work in balance for a healthier world – Elanco set goals for R&D to produce new pipeline assets that would be alternatives to shared-class antibiotics – our eight-step antibiotic stewardship plan. This Challenge program is a demonstration of that commitment and the humility to admit that the best ideas may not originate within our organization. Elanco is committed to One Health, regardless of where that innovation is born.
Why is it important to find alternatives to shared-class antibiotics?
There is growing concern over the use of antibiotics that are used to treat human infection that are also used to treat animal disease (shared-class antibiotics). The concern is largely over the threat of emergent anti-microbial resistance. Bacterial resistance to some of our most widely used antibiotics could create global disruptions to the food chain through wide-spread of infection that is non-responsive to our current defenses. That same resistance could also cross into other species and promote bacterial infections that are resistant to leading anti-biotics and this could pose a significant threat to human health. Finding alternatives to current products keeps us ahead of bacterial evolution and mitigates the threats to human and animal health.
Can you describe the key characteristics a successful solution would have?
A successful solution would properly demonstrate an understanding of the specific disease state, and how that solution represents a viable alternative to current antibiotic products in the market. The solution must contain enough detail and support to allow a proper evaluation. Elanco will evaluate solutions based on novelty, creativity and feasibility.
What is your motivation for crowdsourcing solutions?
While we have great minds in animal health that work here at Elanco, we do not presume that all the great minds are here. Crowdsourcing innovation is an approach to help us solve large industry problems in animal health that may or may not originate within our organization. As an R&D company, Elanco is committed to advancing the very best ideas. Crowdsourcing ensures we are pursuing every possible avenue for those ideas.
Any final words of advice for Solvers wanting to participate?
Think creatively about solutions that would not necessarily be obvious to someone focused on animal health in a pharmaceutical setting. Often, scientific advances leverage expertise and serendipity; having the right knowledge applied to the right problem at the right time. It’s been said that innovation happens at the fringe and not the center of knowledge, and we believe that. I am looking for solutions and ideas that come from this fringe to complement the innovation capacities that I have internally at Elanco. Each Challenge is constructed to provide guidance on the kind of solutions we are looking for. Please use your imagination and help us expand ours.