100 Years of 'Innovation in Biology'

GLOBAL - Ceva Phylaxia is today a thriving biotech campus, which combines research, development, production and commercial operations on one site.
calendar icon 14 November 2012
clock icon 11 minute read

The Hungarian pioneers who are part of Ceva’s history, as well as major scientific figures from the group’s American side, are all inspiring heroes for Ceva’s most recent scientists, themselves pioneers of the latest vaccine technologies.

When founded in 1991, as Ceva's first centre for biological expertise, the aim of Ceva Phylaxia was to continue the tradition of veterinary biology started in 1912 with the Phylaxia Serum Producing Company. A hundred years ago, the goal was to produce a specific serum to fight Classical Swine Fever which was devastating farms throughout Hungary and elsewhere in Europe.

Ceva Phylaxia is now one of Ceva's major campuses with over 400 members of staff, including 112 working in research and development. Its expertise is centered on the conception and production of vaccines to protect production animals against a wide-range of bacterial and viral diseases. Inspired by such famous researchers as Aladár Aujeszky, József Marek, Domokos Derzsy and Adorján Bartha, names that are familiar to veterinarians worldwide - Ceva Phylaxia's scientists today are continuing a long history and tradition of Hungarian veterinary excellence.

The R&D teams include some of today's best experts in the innovation and practical field use of veterinary vaccines against both bacterial (Jérôme Thévenon) and viral diseases (Zoltán Pénzes) who can call upon the world renowned expertise of Benaouda Kadra (leader of the global industrialization department) and Vilmos Palya or Istvan Kiss (Scientific Support and Investigation Unit (SSIU) to back them up.

Dr Arnaud Bourgeois, Global Director of the Biology business: "In celebrating 100 years since the creation of the Phylaxia Serum Producing Company, we are very proud of our historical link with this company and its scientific tradition. Over the years, we have shown our commitment to build on our roots and bring to life major innovations, by investing heavily and regularly in Ceva Phylaxia.

As a result of the intensive investment started in the late 90's, we have opened two major new GMP vaccine manufacturing plants, one for viral vaccines inaugurated in 2004, the other for aerobe and anaerobe bacterial vaccines in 2010. Over the years several other production, filling and R&D units were built on the site and most recently, a new laboratory dedicated to the Scientific Support and Investigations activities. From 1991 to today, the company has increased its production over 1,000x, and launched numerous vaccines among them the best sellers Cevac Transmune IBD, Cevac IBD L, Coglavax, Coglapest, Coglapix or Coxevac to name a few."

Ceva Phylaxia today

The Ceva Phylaxia Biotech campus in Budapest is today headed by Thierry Le Flohic. Ceva still uses the "original Phylaxia formula" of bringing teams together from R&D, registration, manufacturing, sales and marketing in a campus concept that develops team work and ultimately fuels innovation. Working together, under field pressure, creates a sense of urgency that translates into shorter time to market for new solutions that helps farmers in their daily fight against diseases.


The high quality research and development at Ceva Phylaxia today is carried out by a staff of over 100 people. The company has a rich collaborative network with local, European and International partners and Ceva's other R&D sites around the world. This worldwide network allows expertise to be shared and recognized. Each site brings together R&D, registration, production and sales and marketing in a "campus" concept.

As a main driver for innovation the various teams nourish each other though their specific focus and expertise. Ceva Phylaxia is the European part of Ceva's biological campus network, with Ceva Biomune, USA, Ceva Vetech, Canada, Ceva Campinas, Brazil, Ceva Cuernavaca, Mexico, Ceva ISG, Argentina, Ceva Huadu, China and the group's bio-molecular vaccine research team in Yokohama, Japan.

The History of Biology in Ceva

Strong investment in new facilities for research, development and production, in parallel with constant innovation, have been strong features of the company throughout its history.

Milestones over a century

1895 - Classical Swine Fever hits Hungary

1906 - Professor Ferenc Hutÿra demonstrates for the first time in Europe that Swine Fever is caused by a filterable virus identical to the virus described by the Americans in 1904

1907 - Professor Ferenc Hutÿra invites János Köves to his veterinary laboratory to help learn more about swine fever. They design the method of efficient serum production and soon implement the practice of serum prevention against the illness.

1909 - The Epizoological Laboratory of the Veterinary College is created by the Ministry of Agriculture with Professor Janos Köves at its head.

1912 - Following rapid development, the laboratory becomes independent and the PHYLAXIA Serum Producing Company is born

From 1914 - Production is diversified to include antibacterial serum and bacterial vaccines

From the 1920's - New vaccines are produced: against Fowl Cholera, Swine Erysipelas and Anthrax.

1948 - All Hungarian laboratories engaged in biological production are merged and nationalized to create the Phylaxia State Serum Institute.

1954 - The department producing sera for humans becomes an independent company

1957 - Dr Al Cosgrove describes Infectious Bursal Disease, which becomes known as "Gumboro" after the small coastal town in Delaware, USA where it was first recognized.

1960 - Steve Hitchner helps form L&M laboratories, which later becomes Ceva, a Sanofi company.

1960's - L&M produces several innovative poultry vaccines, thanks to the Hall of Fame researchers including Cosgrove, Hitchner and Dr. Rollie Winterfield who worked for the laboratory. Isolates include the Winterfield 2515 strain found in Cevac® IBD L and Cevac Transmune® and the Hitchner B1 strain of the Newcastle disease virus, which has since become one of the most widely used strain in the world.

1969 - The company merges with the National Vaccination Producing Institute to create the Phylaxia Vaccination and Nutrition Producing Corporation. During the 1970's the new structure produces more than two hundred different kinds of products and with more than two thousand employees, it becomes a base for the improvement of veterinary science in Hungary and internationally.

1991 - Phylaxia-Sanofi is founded as a joint venture company between French company Sanofi Animal Health and Nutrition, Phylaxia Vaccination and Nutrition Producing Corporation and Chinoin. Major know how and products like Coglavax® and Coglapest® are transferred to the Hungarian site.

1995 - Sanofi Santé Nutrition Animale becomes 100 per cent owner of Phylaxia Sanofi. As the American animal health branch of it is sold, the most significant master seeds used for the production of poultry vaccines (including Blen™ strains created at the L&M Laboratory in the US) are transferred to Phylaxia Sanofi.

1999 -Ceva's management team lead first leveraged buyout ( LBO), Ceva Santé Animale is born. Phylaxia Sanofi becomes Ceva Phylaxia.

2005 - Beginning of Cevac Transmune® launch

2007 - Q-fever hits Holland. Coxevac, Ceva's advanced "phase 1" vaccine is used as a central part of the public health program to control the disease.

2009 - Coglapix - Actinobacillus pleuropnemoniae vaccine is launched in Asia. The product is so well tolerated after vaccination that pigs continue to grow uninterrupted; users call this "gain not pain."

Past and Present Pioneers

Hungarian pioneers in Ceva's history

Famous Hungarian scientists such as Aladár Aujeszky, József Marek, Domokos Derzsy and Adorján Bartha, names that are familiar to veterinarians worldwide, have been closely associated with the development of Phylaxia and Phylaxia-Sanofi.

Aladár Aujeszky (1869-1933) - Professor of bacteriology at the veterinary school in Budapest for 26 years. He discovered the Pseudo-Rabies disease named after him in 1902. He was also involved in the development of biologicals in the early days of Phylaxia.

József Marek (1868-1952) - Professor of internal medicine at the veterinary school in Budapest between 1901 and 1935. In 1907, he was the first to describe Viral Fowl Paralysis (neuro-lymphadenosis), a disease later named after him. He also worked on Classical Swine Fever, trypanosomes and in the field of physiology. His contribution to the theory and practice of veterinary medicine is recognized all over the world.

Domokos Derzsy (1914-1975) - Professor, senior researcher and until his death, Director of the Veterinary Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He was the first scientist who discovered and described parvovirus as a causative agent of the disease of geese that was named after him. From 1939 to 1941, and then from 1946 to 1950, he worked in Phylaxia.

Adorján Bartha (1923-1996) - Professor, member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Head of the Virology Department, later Director of the Veterinary Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He established the first modern virological research laboratory in Hungary in the early fifties. He developed the first fully attenuated and naturally G-1 deleted, Aujeszky Disease virus strain (called Bartha K-61) for vaccine production. Between 1991 and 1993, he was also a member of the Board of Directors of Phylaxia-Sanofi.

American pioneers linked to Ceva's vaccine excellence

Several renowned American poultry experts worked for the vaccine company L&M Laboratories. From the early 60's they were to play an important role in providing the essential tools for modern day disease control. L&M Laboratories later became Ceva and when the American animal health branch of Sanofi was sold, the essential master seeds were transferred to its European centre in Budapest.

Steve Hitchner (1916-2011)- This distinguished poultry specialist spent many years in research and teaching positions in academia as well in the poultry vaccine industry. He was a prominent figure in American Scientific Laboratories (ASL) and was instrumental in the setting up of L&M Laboratories (which eventually became Ceva, a Sanofi company, and then Sanofi Animal Health Inc.). Steve Hitchner isolated, propagated and commercialized a mild Newcastle disease strain (the Hitchner B1 strain), which is still widely used for vaccination, and was involved in developing vaccines against Infectious Bronchitis, Infectious Laryngotracheitis, and Fowl Pox.

Rollie Winterfield - While Professor at Purdue University, Rollie Winterfield isolated the virus agent of Infectious Bursal Disease (IBD) from a field case of the first recognized outbreak of the disease in Gumboro, Delaware, US. He then developed an attenuated isolate designated Winterfield 2512, and later took part, with Steve Hitchner, in setting up L&M Laboratories). The Winterfield 2512 strain is the basis of Ceva's two star poultry vaccines, namely Cevac® IBD L, and Cevac Transmune®.

Al Cosgrove (1949-2002) - While working as a diagnostic veterinarian at Delaware Poultry Laboratories, Al Cosgrove recognized a syndrome later called "avian nephrosis" on a broiler farm near the community of Gumboro in Delaware. It became known as "Gumboro disease". Al Cosgrove later directed the diagnostic service of L&M Laboratories (see above).

Today's pioneers

The Ceva group and Ceva Phylaxia in particular have today, more than ever, some of the best specialists in animal vaccines. Although, their individual skills are essential, modern day science relies more on team work. These brilliant scientists and the team they lead, building on a legacy of excellence, are bringing expertise and innovation in the field of vaccine research and development. This applies not only to the design of new vaccines, but also to technology transfer, production processes, field studies.

Vilmos Palya - Director of Ceva Phylaxia's Scientific Support and Investigation Unit. His 40-year career has seen him work both in the private sector and in national and international public institutions, such as the FAO. His tasks have included investigating outbreaks, controlling the efficiency of vaccination campaigns, managing or advising vaccine research or manufacturing… He has published over 70 peer reviewed articles. He has been with Ceva for 14 years, during which one of his achievements was the development of Cevac Transmune®.

Benaouda Kadra - Head of Global Industrialization Directorate has been with Ceva for over 18 years, after working as Head of the Human & Veterinary Bacteriological Vaccines Department of the Pasteur Institute in Alger and developing analytical tools and diagnostics for Clostridia (ELISA & PCR) at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Until recently Director of Bacteriological Development at Ceva Phylaxia, he and his team contributed to the development and technology transfer of Clostridial, respiratory and zoonotic bacterial vaccines.

Zoltán Pénzes - Director of Virological Development identifies new vaccine projects and coordinates internal and external research. He has worked for Ceva for almost 10 years and was part of the team which developed Cevac Transmune® vaccine as well as being a key member of the team to introduce Good Laboratory Practice international standards to the campus.

Before joining Ceva, he was involved, in Spain and in the UK, in cutting-edge research in the field of viral vaccines, developing vectors, infectious clones as models, as well as live vector, sub-unit, conventional live and immune-complex vaccines. Ceva's Hall of Fame dedicated to "Innovation in Biology"

Scientists are the world's new entrepreneurs. With the constant increase in the pace of innovation, their skill and imagination can be the difference between the success and failure of any organization.

Ceva's inheritance outlined above shows how as an organization we have been able to benefit from the scientific brilliance of a number of individuals, although more often than not they also worked as part of creative, collaborative teams.

Basic research on the web shows little trace of these famous names. It is for this reason that Ceva seeks to honor them and their families by creating the "Hall of Fame of Innovation in Biology." In this way we will ensure that their contributions become recognized by students and fellow professionals for many years to come.

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