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Dutch export success story: vaccines hidden in meaty bones | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Looking at the plant of the veterinary pharmaceutical giant Intervet on the outskirts of the Brabant town of Boxmeer, it would be easy to delude yourself into believing you have just arrived at Charlie's chocolate factory from Roald Dahl's famous children's book. The merger with a French competitor, which is to be finalised soon, will make Intervet one of the world's largest producers of veterinary medicines. In the tranquil environment of Intervet's laboratories, young scientists are at work developing cures for viral infections affecting both humans and animals.

A sign warns visitors in no uncertain terms to "Make sure to use the correct entrance". The sign is testimony to the size of the sprawling plant, which covers an area equal to no less than 17 football fields. Two flags are fluttering in the wind outside the main office building. The US Stars and Stripes - parent company Merck has its headquarters in the United States - and the Dutch national flag. Soon, the plant will have to add another flagpole.

The French flag will probably be first raised at the site in 2011. Intervet, leader in animal vaccines is to merge with the French company Merial, the proud producers of a leading remedy against fleas and of anti-parasitical drugs for farm animals. The two businesses appear to be complimentary, but the merger has yet to be approved by the European and US competition authorities.

Giant cauldrons
Hidden behind the main gate on the outskirts of Boxmeer lies Charlie's magical world. White-clad Umpa Lumpas are performing their incomprehensible duties; huge cylindrical cauldrons can make you disappear forever and, to perfect the image, here and there coloured liquids can be seen bubbling away. The fantasy is cruelly disrupted by research director René Aerts, who provides crystal-clear explanations off what his associates are up to.

by Nomad on Wed Oct 13th, 2010 at 04:03:13 PM EST
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