support | animal health | harmonisation of standards | safety
The Association of Veterinary Consultants, the association of completely independent, self employed veterinary specialists
We aim at pushing veterinary support and science in the animal health and food sector by supporting global harmonisation of standards for animal health and animal derived products, assuring animal, user and environmental safety and other ethical principles as defined in the AVC - Code of Practice.
AVC is an interested party at the following organisations:
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE AVC by Bill Vandaele
When Birgit and Rimma asked me to write an article “for the files the reasons to establish AVC, how the association developed during the years and what are my personal highlights and disappointments”… I thought this would be easy … but years are going so quickly and my memory fails me on what happened more than 25 years ago!!! The first chapter in our website of AVC is, in my opinion, a good summary; mainly on the reasons why AVC was created.
Birgit and Rimma added: “The reason why we ask for this, AVC is a small association with a few Members however these members getting older and older and we should keep in our files the stories from all the members from the first days in our association”.
This is also why I decided to contact some of the “founders”:
-Pascal RICHEZ provided me of the 2 first press releases (1995 and 1996) and a list of Members from 1999.
-Luc JANSEGERS, who was treasurer at that time, had an even older list of Members: 1997
-Olivier ROY has also a good memory and could still remember the names from 11 of the 12 ‘founders’!
Thanks to those 3 ‘living memories’!
What was happening in the beginning of the 1990s in Animal Health and Nutrition sector?
To understand the background, and to explain the founding of AVC, it can be interesting to describe also a little what was happening in the 1990s.
If I compare with the 1960s, when I graduated as Dr in veterinary medicine and had the opportunity to start a career in the European pharmaceutical industry, more specifically in the regulatory sector (PS and so not to succeed to my father in veterinary practice in Belgium), I would say that in the 1990s a main feature was many mergers in the pharmaceutical sector; and even more so in the animal health sector.
The animal health sector has always been much smaller than the human health sector. A previous colleague told me often “We, animal health sector, represent around 10% of the total sales of pharmaceuticals; but we represent 90% of the problems!”.
And when mergers occur some people lose their jobs. And therefore some colleagues started to work as consultants, mostly in the pharmaceutical area; but also in animal nutrition (mostly feed additives) and in the public health sector.
The company for which I was working in regulatory and public relations was not part of a merger; but in 1994 was the first important victim of the growing, at that time, European political anti-biotechnology campaigns and lobbying, mostly at the level of the European Parliament. In our case, the European Scientific Regulatory Authorities granted us a positive recommendation for a marketing authorization (meaning that quality, safety and efficacy were considered as satisfactory for that biotechnology veterinary medicine); but the European Commission and Council did not follow this recommendation and refused a European Marketing Authorization. So the company closed their European Animal Health headquarters and all subsidiaries in EU Member States!!!
Decision to create an international association of consultants
When that happened to me, I had to make a choice - I could quickly join another international animal health company, or I had an offer to join, as a consultant, a Belgian SME involved in biotechnology for medicines for aquaculture. And if I chose to become a consultant, I would have to create my own company with a status as SME. This was for me a big challenge…… but also an opportunity, after more than 30 years in 5 multinational animal health pharmaceutical companies!!
I can add that during my time as a veterinarian working in the industry, I have always been very active in trade associations. Already in 1968 I was elected president of the the Belgian Union of Veterinary Surgeons. And in the early 1970s, with some French and German colleagues, we created the European Association of Veterinarians, now FVE, the section of Federation of Vets in Industry and Research, FEVIR; now called EVERI.
So, based on these experiences, I thought about an Association of Veterinary Consultants…!! But, when I discussed this with a key European Regulator he told me; “Bill, be careful if you start such an association of veterinary consultants: in the human medicine sector, there are a lot of physicians who are consultants; but they have in general, a bad name in the industry and for the regulators as often they are not very ethical and often do not keep data and/or information as confidential when it is confidential!!”
So, it became clear that there was a need to create a professional and ethical Association of Veterinary Consultants, supported by a Code of Good Practice, applicable to all members and applied as a condition of membership.
Start of AVC
Around me some colleagues, “victims” of mergers had started as consultants; but completely on their own. When I contacted them by referring to the possibility to “unite forces” and to create an association, some were directly interested!! In addition, Alistair Kidd, who just retired as head of the UK veterinary medicines Agency (VMD) started as a consultant and was directly interested to help me build the association.
After some other contacts, on 31st May 1995, 12 veterinarians met in Brussels and signed the constitution of the “Association of Veterinary Consultants (Association des Vétérinaires Consultants”, “AVC”).
The 12 ‘Founders Members were:
- Jan AAGE WHETE, Norway, a personal good friend who had introduced me to the aquaculture world
- Alberto BERGAMASCHI, Italy, a previous colleague in Smith Kline and French (SKF)
- Christiaan FOLKERS(+), The Netherlands and previously with Duphar, a vaccine company
- Luc JANSEGERS, Belgium, with a lot of experience in feed additives
- Alistair KIDD(+), UK, previous head of the VMD in Weybridge
- Marie-Paule LEFAY, France, consultant in regulatory affairs in the animal health sector
- Meredith LLOYD EVANS, UK, also a previous colleague in SKF
- Andy PETERS, UK, coming from the academic world
- Pascal RICHEZ, France, coming from the animal health regulatory affairs and certainly one of the first veterinary consultants in France
- Olivier ROY, France, working mostly in the area of clinical trials
- Bill VANDAELE, Belgium, with more than 30 years’ experience in animal health regulatory and public affairs area in multinational companies.
- Rutger van VERSENDAAL, The Netherlands, coming from the regulatory area in the animal health industry in Netherland.
Yes, a group of colleagues mostly from France, Benelux and UK. Most of them coming and working for the animal health pharmaceutical and/or feed additives industry.
In the press release (which Pascal could trace!!) issued at the end of the first meeting of 31st April 1995 in Brussels, we can see that following Board was elected:
President: Alastair KIDD
Vice-President: Pascal RICHEZ
General Secretary: Bill VANDAELE
Treasurer: Chris FOLKERS
Alistair was not only the oldest member; but his experience as head of an important European Agency was a key argument to elect him as first president. Alistair was a real European-minded colleague, convinced that veterinary consultants should work together!!
First years 1995- 1999
One year later, on 29th June 1996, we met in London, and the press release issued at that time contained following sentences:
"During the first International Association of Veterinary Consultants -AVC- meeting organised on 29th June at the Royal Veterinary College in London, the candidature of 6 new members was approved by the Executive Committee: 3 Spanish, 2 British and 1 German independent veterinary consultant.
“This means that after only one year, AVC has now 25 members who have all signed the AVC Code of Good Practice.”
“As the current AVC Chairman, Alastair KIDD, has decided to cease his professional activities, the members had to elect a new president and a new secretary.”
A new Board was therefore elected:
President: Bill VANDAELE
Vice- President: Pascal RICHEZ
General Secretary; Chris FOLKERS
Treasurer: Luc JANSEGERS
In 1997, the 2nd meeting took place in Montpellier (Fr).
And in 1998 we met in Cambridge (UK). Below part of the press release issued after this 3rd General Assembly in Cambridge:
AVC is becoming a world-wide association and is studying Quality Assurance to be added to its Code of Good Practice
On the 10th and 11th October, 18 veterinarians participated in the 3rd Round Table Conference organised in Cambridge by the International Association of Veterinary Consultants, AVC.
In addition to the primary goal of learning more about each other, the main purpose was to exchange ideas on how to add new Quality Assurance Criteria into the Code of Good Practice. Each member is asked to sign the Code of Good Practice before being accepted as a member. The code is very well accepted by the clients of the AVC members and is proof of the high technical and ethical standards.
AVC was very honoured to receive Peter JONES, head of the Veterinary unit at the EMEA as guest speaker. He explained “the Role of EMEA” and his presentation was followed by a very useful Q/A session.
During the AVC General Assembly which preceded this 3rd Round Table Conference, the members agreed to run an AVC Internet home page which will be accessible to all members and aims to improve the exchange of information. The secretary will also be able to answer through the same medium all information requests coming from outside.
AVC is becoming increasingly international and counts 30 members including 6 new members for this year of which one from Poland and one from Brazil.
The new officers of the Board were also elected:
Dr Bill VANDAELE, President (Belgium)
Dr Pascal RICHEZ, Vice President (France)
Dr Christiaan FOLKERS, Secretary (the Netherlands)
Dr Luc JANSEGERS Treasurer (Belgium)
Yes, 1998 was the first time that we reached 30 Members!! And also the first time including two non-Western Europe Members!!
AVC becoming a recognized stakeholder
As far as I can remember those first years were characterized by the fact that AVC became relative quickly a recognized stakeholder both at EMEA (now EMA) and at European Commission. We were regularly invited as speakers and/or even as chairperson at International Conferences and Meetings to give presentations in addition or in place of presentations by industry. Our points of view were often considered as “good, independent compromises” between proposals from Authorities and wishes from industry.
AVC as unique network of specialists to exchange business together
In 1997, Pascal Richez wrote in one of his messages to the Board members
“In fact, I am more and more convinced that the AVC is a wonderful tool for its members to exchange information, to have access to a unique network of specialists, to exchange business together. We sometimes would like to have a correspondent able to help us in a field where we have only little experience. We can then come back to our client with an answer to a problem (it is not always necessary to explain how we found the solution to this problem)….”
I can only agree with this and it was certainly in the early years a great bonus of our yearly General Assemblies which were attended by a great number of the members!! Those personal contacts allowed us, each year, to reinforce the relation among the members!!!
AND GREAT FUTURE TO AVC ….!!!
Bill VANDAELE, 5th December 2021