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Bovine Virus Test Kit Aims to Help Cattle Industry

Sun, 12/12/2010 - 11:33pm
San Diego Business Journal

LIFE TECHNOLOGIES CORP.

CEO: Gregory T. Lucier.

Revenue: $3.3 billion in 2009.

Net income: $550.9 million in 2009.

No. of local employees: 1,300.

Headquarters: Carlsbad.

Year founded: 2008.

Stock symbol and exchange: LIFE on Nasdaq.

Company description: Develops and sells biotech tools to customers in the fields of personalized medicine, regenerative science, molecular diagnostics, agricultural and environmental research and forensics.

If current sales efforts go as planned, Life Technologies Corp.s new detection kit for a bovine virus could potentially be a cash cow for the Carlsbad-based company, which manufactures biotech tools for customers across a wide spectrum of industries.

We think there will be a lot of interest, said Brian Kim, general manager of Life Technologies animal testing unit in Austin, Texas, which is developing test kits to detect diseases in production animals like cows, pigs and poultry.

For meat producers, especially, detecting and treating diseases are an economic imperative, said Kim, who added that the company continues to see its tools gain acceptance in a growing number of market segments, such as the animal health industry.

The new product targeting the beef industry is called the VetMAX-Gold BVDV Detection Kit and provides veterinary diagnostic labs around the world with a tool to test cattle for type 1 and type 2 bovine viral diarrhea virus an immune-suppressing disease that makes cows susceptible to a range of respiratory and reproductive illnesses.

In the lab, personnel can exponentially amplify a DNA sample (such as a sample taken from a cow) in an effort to detect the presence of a particular pathogen, said Kim. He declined to discuss the price per kit, citing a competitive environment in the field.

A Year Spent on R&D

Kim said Life Technologies first U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed test is a big deal for us, and represents about a years worth of research and development for the unit, which employs about two dozen people. Life Technologies Austin campus, one of about 30 worldwide, has 320 employees.

The test will be marketed to stand-alone veterinary labs and meat producers to detect BVDV, a debilitating disease that costs the U.S. cattle industry an estimated $2 billion per year, according to IDEXX Laboratories Inc., a Maine-based lab that services the veterinary industry.

Its a nasty disease that makes cows in a herd more susceptible to other diseases and reduces their weight, which is an economic disadvantage to meat producers taking their cows to market, Kim said.

While Kim wouldnt comment on the potential dollar value of the test kit roll out and didnt make sales projections that could tip off competitors, he said the central role of animal health in successful livestock production will have a positive impact on Life Technologies future domestic sales.

The expected worldwide increase in beef consumption brings urgency to the issue of food safety.

According to the advisory board of the World Agricultural Forum, the dramatic increase in population growth and economic development will drive continued growth in meat consumption. The Forum said meat consumption could nearly double by 2050 from 2008 rates.

Essential to Detect in Herds

To provide some context on the extent of the problem to the cattle industry, an academic-based veterinarian said its essential that producers know if the disease is circulating in their herds.

The USDA licensing of the detection kit increases confidence when evaluating results, said Brad White, an associate professor of veterinary medicine at Kansas State University. Accurate and reliable tests are critical when implementing strategies to control and eliminate BVDV from cattle herds.

Veterinary diagnosticians have historically relied on Life Technologies molecular reagents and tools to detect and control disease. This new product provides them with a federally approved test containing all the necessary reagents and controls in a single kit.

We continue to see our tools gain acceptance in a growing number of applied market segments, said Peter Dansky, president of molecular biology systems for Life Technologies.

The USDAs approval of our kit is a testament to Life Technologies leadership as a supplier of highly accurate, reliable and cost-effective molecular tests that are having a positive impact on the cattle industry and other food producers, said Dansky.

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