In the rapidly changing context of research on animal health, INRA launched a collective discussion on the challenges facing the field, its distinguishing features, and synergies with biomedical research. As has been declared forcibly by the heads of WHO, FAO and OIE, the challenges facing animal health, beyond diseases transmissible to humans, are critically important and involve food security, agriculture economics, and the ensemble of economic activities associated with agriculture. There are in addition issues related to public health (zoonoses, xenobiotics, antimicrobial resistance), the environment, and animal welfare.
Animal health research is distinguished by particular methodologies and scientific questions that stem from the specific biological features of domestic species and from animal husbandry practices. It generally does not explore the same scientific questions as research on human biology, even when the same pathogens are being studied, and the discipline is rooted in a very specific agricultural and economic context.
Generic and methodological synergies nevertheless exist with biomedical research, particularly with regard to tools and biological models. Certain domestic species furthermore present more functional similarities with humans than laboratory rodents.
The singularity of animal health research in relation to biomedical research should be taken into account in the organization, evaluation, and funding of the field through a policy that clearly recognizes the specific issues at stake. At the same time, the One Health approach should facilitate closer collaboration between biomedical and animal health research at the level of research teams and programmes.