By Aisha Yerkebulan
Twelve new animal vaccines have been developed by the research and production enterprise Antigen, an EBRD advisory client in Kazakhstan. Thanks to a project funded by the Kazakhstan government, the vaccines will be sold abroad. With the help of international advisers, the company was able to conform to the requirements of globally recognised Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), ensuring vaccine accreditation.
Antigen wanted to explore its export potential due to the limited possibilities on the local market. Prices had declined because of the use of cheaper vaccine strains, developed in former times. Antigen decided to focus instead on developing modern, high-quality vaccines, even if it meant higher prices.
The company attracted a team of international industry experts through the EBRD’s business advisory programme. A former general manager of one of the biggest pharmaceutical factories in the Czech Republic, an expert in manufacturing processes and a documentation specialist helped Antigen align the production of vaccines from start to finish with GMP. This involved revamping production facilities, adjusting the organisational structure, ensuring the best safety measures, optimising process flows and developments in many other aspects of the business.
The company also took part in a business matching trip for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Czech Republic. “Several factories allowed us to visit them, which is very rare in the industry. After observing best international practices, we bought new foreign adjuvants and completely changed the way we make some of our vaccines,” says Antigen’s manager, Saule Toxambayeva.
The enterprise now strives to produce modern, easy-to-administer vaccines that provide additional benefits. For example, their conjunctival vaccine for brucellosis temporarily stains sheep’s eyes blue, making it easier to spot vaccinated sheep in the flock.
Antigen has already increased export sales to Azerbaijan, Georgia, Mongolia and the Kyrgyz Republic. It will soon start exporting to Europe. The level of competition there is higher but Ms Toxambayeva says it is still possible to bring new products to the market. In particular, sudden outbreaks of unfamiliar diseases might prompt countries to buy vaccines from new producers:
“Countries usually do not stock vaccines for diseases they do not experience. However, given how animals are prone to migrate, you never know which diseases might travel across country borders. Swine fever, for instance, is a disease affecting domestic animals but it can be transmitted by wild boars,” explains Ms Toxambayeva.
Antigen continues to work with international advisers beyond the EBRD project to further develop the business. The enterprise has expanded its production of growth media beyond veterinary applications with transportable growth media for the healthcare industry. It also offers one of the best testing laboratories for dairy, honey and other bee products in Kazakhstan. Antigen, which was established in 1998 as a small research and development laboratory, is now a prominent driver of new technologies in the country and holds 150 patent rights.
“We owe our success to our staff. We have some of the best chemists and biologists in the country. We are also very lucky to have many foreign partners that share their expertise with us,” says Ms Toxambayeva.