In recent years, multinational pharmaceutical enterprises have begun to realize that China provides great opportunities in the animal health sector, where the emergence of new diseases in the pig industry, new government policies to improve food safety and the overall development of the pig industry point towards future growth.

Boehringer Ingelheim China recently opened a new Asian Veterinary Research & Development Center in Shanghai, an investment of €12 million that the company claims is the largest of its kind established by a multinational pharmaceutical company in China. "China has become the largest market for animal production with a scale only second to the United States," said Dr. Yang Xianjin, vice president of animal health for Boehringer Ingelheim China. "Market capacity here is estimated to be as high as RMB 30 billion (US$4.76 billion)."

As a part of Boehringer Ingelheim’s international R&D organization, the new center is positioned to identify and develop vaccines against livestock diseases focusing on China and Asian markets. “It will be supported by our research facilities around the world, and be a supporting member itself in our global R&D network,” said Marcus Conradt, the head of the research center.

David Preston, CEO of the company in China, said that as some swine diseases occur particularly in China and other Asian regions, Boehringer Ingelheim has established its local research presence in Shanghai to provide solutions to its customers in China faster. "It is more likely that we can work out vaccines against diseases that threaten the Chinese or Asian pig industry here in China, rather than in Germany or the United States," said Preston.

With the research center, Boehringer Ingelheim will continue to develop a third-generation vaccine against porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome with another two R&D centers in Germany and U.S., according to Dr. Randolph Seidler, head of Global R&D. "We are also looking to reducing injections, increasing animal welfare of pigs and convenience of vaccination, but the most important thing is that it needs to fit at the highest efficiency and safetry, and give the best result," said Seidler.

As far as further investment is concerned, the comapny plans to focus on developing its research team. Currently the center employs close to 20 staff, but will add a considerable number more employees to the team each year for the next few years, said Dr. Yuan Shishan, who is head of vaccine development.

At the same time, the company will keep a close eye on other potential opportunities in Asia. "We need to make sure that we have a diverse array of business, so we can achieve further progress for our development," said Preston. "Boehringer Ingelheim’s long-term focus is to further strengthen its very strong global position in the animal health business, particularly in the vaccine segment."