By Bud Grimes
Campus Scene Magazine, Volume 81 / Number 1 - Winter 2001
If dogs could talk, they would say great things about Dr. Bob Page (Martin ’69). Page, 53, is a practicing doctor of veterinary medicine in Dresden, Tennessee, who also owns and manages NEOTECH, LLC, a high-tech producer of parvovirus vaccine for dogs. His vaccine has saved the lives of countless puppies across the country.
Canine parvovirus is a deadly gastrointestinal disease seen most often in young puppies. The virus, which causes severe vomiting and diarrhea, is spread by direct contact among dogs and by people who have the virus on their hands and clothes after handling infected animals. The mortality and economic losses from the disease can be devastating.
“Most young puppies, if they get the severe form of the disease, die,” Page said. “In a given facility, you could probably lose anywhere from 40 to close to 100 percent of susceptible young puppies.
“[Parvovirus] can affect dogs of all ages, but it’s most severe in puppies less than six months old. It’s a costly disease to treat. In a breeding kennel, valuable animals can die. It’s probably the number-one killer of dogs today.”
The NeoTech building, situated on a scenic stretch of Highway 22 in rural Northwest Tennessee, doesn’t attract much attention. Little do passersby know the impact the laboratory has had on the canine world. Page, too, is unassuming. His success did not come overnight.
He was raised on a sharecropper’s farm in Trimble, Tennessee, located in Dyer County. He came to Martin in 1965 to major in agriculture with the intention of becoming a full-time farmer. He graduated in 1969, and instead of farming, headed to Auburn University to veterinary school.
After graduating from Auburn and fulfilling a military commitment in the Army Veterinary Corps, Page returned in 1976 to Weakley County with his wife, Jo, and his daughter, Amy, (both UT Martin alums) to start a private veterinary practice in Dresden.
Page says canine parvovirus became a problem in 1978, possibly mutating from a cat virus, and reached almost epidemic proportions in dogs by 1980. There was no canine parvovirus vaccine at the time, so he decided to develop one. That first vaccine was released for use in 1980.
“This was the first effective vaccine specifically for canine parvovirus in the country at the time,” Page says. “Of course, other companies and laboratories quickly saw the significance of the epidemic and developed vaccines also. This wasn’t the only one. It just happened to be the first and the most effective.”
In 1984, the virus mutated, and the original vaccine became ineffective. In 1988, another epidemic hit. Page’s lab answered with Neopar™, the trade name for the “new parvo” vaccine that is effective in controlling the mutated virus strain.
By 1990, U.S. government regulations changed, and only federally licensed companies—not state-regulated firms such as Page’s—could produce the vaccine. His laboratory did not seek federal licensure immediately, so Page produced the vaccine only for clients.
He thought it would take three years to get the new license, but on March 6, 2000, barely 18 months after formally applying, he received federal licensure of the NeoTech facility and the vaccine. He also saw completion of the new laboratory, located about a mile from his clinic, during the same year-and-a-half period.
“This vaccine is now available for sale nationwide,” he says. “There is no restriction on the sale of the product.”
Sitting in his new NeoTech office, Page appears relaxed and unaffected by what has happened the past decade. He is quick to share credit for NeoTech’s success. Page says Bob Edwards, the company’s managing director and one of seven NeoTech team members, engineered the faster-than-expected turnaround on federal licensing.
Another person who helped NeoTech is Max Speight, a Weakley County attorney and close personal friend. Speight advised Page on the complexities of forming a company for the future development of the vaccine.
“Bob comes from humble beginnings, but with a dream of doing something most people would consider impossible,” Speight says. “I can sincerely say that he is blessed with a brilliant mind, as demonstrated by what he has accomplished.”
Page also uses NeoTech and his veterinary practice to help others. Many UT Martin students have interned with Page, including Allison Forrester of Dresden. A full-time student and mother of three, Forrester applies much of what she has learned in class at NeoTech, where she will become quality-control director when she graduates.
“I do a lot of the testing of the product to make sure it stays within government regulations,” says Forrester, who is on course to earn a microbiology degree in May 2001. “I’m hoping that later on, as I learn more, I can get more involved in the research and development.”
Despite all he has accomplished, Page’s work at NeoTech is just beginning. The canine parvovirus vaccine is currently sold directly to clients across the U.S., but international sales are possible, and a Web page is under development for Internet sales. There are also new products in the pipeline, including a canine distemper vaccine.
Page still spends about half his time at the veterinary clinic, which comes as no surprise to those who know him. “His love and care for animals is amazing,” says Max Speight. “I don’t think he could ever let someone’s pet or someone’s livestock or even a stray hurt without trying to help.”
Clearly, Page doesn’t measure success in financial gain but rather in producing what he and others believe is the most effective canine parvovirus vaccine on the market today.
“[The big corporations] deem success in the numbers of millions of doses of vaccine they sell,” Page says. “We measure our success in the number of puppies’ lives we save.”
Article taken with permission from Tennessee Alumnus Magazine.
All Rights reserved. Copyrighted by NEOTECH, LLC – Dr. Page courtesy of NEOTECH, LLC & NEOPAR®