Providing solutions in diagnostics and reproduction

01 March 2013, at 12:00am

VETERINARY PRACTICE visits a new Shropshire-based firm which provides high-tech solutions in diagnostics and reproduction as well as veterinary bio-banking

“WE believe we are different both in ideas and approach,” says Dr Jack Behan, commercial director of Bio-Genesys. “Our aim is to provide veterinary practices with solutions, particularly in diagnostics and reproduction.”

Dr Behan, who has a PhD in reproductive physiology from the RVC, is one of three directors of the company which was incorporated last May after a two-year gestation period. He is an ART technician and scientist who has owned and operated AI centres and worked as technical and commercial director with various agri-businesses.

His co-directors are Paul Cooke, an electrical and mechanical engineer who specialises in production systems management; and Craig Bates, who handles the financial, administrative and legal sides of the business.

The business is based in spacious offices on the Eco Park, a 12-acre light business estate on the outskirts of Ludlow in Shropshire, a picturesque market town with about 11,000 inhabitants and a castle dating back to 1086.

Currently the company has its bio- bank facility, with liquid nitrogen storage tanks, along with a 30,000 sq. ft. distribution centre, about a half- hour drive away but intends within the next year or two to erect a new building for this purpose on spare land adjacent to its offices, in order to bring everything together.

The company’s core competencies are in assisted reproductive technology, veterinary bio-banking and the preparation of cryogenically stored gametes; and the provision of diagnostic solutions for the genomic testing of both farm and companion animals.

“Our business strategy is to continually provide solutions to our customers through a small, highly- trained distribution network, supplying consumable products and diagnostic services to animals in the disciplines of reproduction, neonate, nutrition and hygiene,” says Dr Behan.

Diagnostic solutions

“We utilise veterinary bio-banking, storing gametes from different canine breeds. We also know the cattle, pig and horse industries very well; and we are making tests available to use on farms with cattle and horses.

“In addition, through our veterinary liaison service, we are providing diagnostic solutions to enable pathogenic testing of biological fluid.”

Paul Cooke, the managing director, is a man with a passion for horses, describing them as noble, gracious and diverse animals. “We are proud,” he says, “of our ability to provide real solutions to assist veterinary practitioners and owners through an innovative range of diagnostic solutions packages.” 

Bio-Genesys can have tests carried out on samples of hair, brain tissue, blood, urine, semen, etc., and is looking for veterinary practices willing to franchise out its services, including such things as the genomic analysis of herds.

The company is able to check the performance of daughters against their mothers, for example, or give informed decisions about the use of semen, and is working towards routine screening of animals for specific traits which will result eventually in a different way of talking about preventive medicine, says Dr Behan. 

DNA separation and fragmentation are among the services offered and the company believes it can assist in producing more biologically efficient meat.

“Genomically we can know the status of an animal months before its birth,” he says. 

“With conditions such as hip dysplasia, we believe the veterinary profession and dog breeders have not been looking at the right things. We can identify species-specific genes and with genomes we can minimise the risk of their transfer and therefore improve animal welfare In addition, where breeds are reducing in numbers we can store embryos and semen.”

Bio-Genesys has already collaborated with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and used semen frozen in the 1970s to “recover” a pure-bred Essex boar. To date the company has carried out AI in over 20 species.

It has established links with the Wellcome Trust and also with Illumina, a global company that develops innovative array-based solutions for DNA, RNA and protein analysis, which carries out the genome testing.

It has also established a partnership with the RVC, where it has commissioned a porcine media study; has contracts with partners in Poland, Spain, the Czech Republic and Ukraine and is working on similar arrangements in other parts of eastern Europe, including Bulgaria; and has distribution agreements in Ireland and Turkey.

Another side of this rapidly expanding business is consumables: it sells a huge range of products from fridges for storing samples, to its own designs of cardboard boxes for storing AI kits and other equipment, along with gloves and boots in all shapes and sizes.

Other products include cattle insemination guns, plungers, tubes, sheaths and semen straws; infusion tubes; products for processing semen; breeding kits and accessories, including the Wrist-Scan ultrasound pregnancy detector for use in swine; thermos bottles, thermometers and thaw boxes.

There are also products for goat and sheep insemination, semen collection from boars and a range of poultry media for chickens, turkeys and ducks. Among recent introductions to the firm’s catalogue is the Detect-a-bull rub-off heat detection system. Developed in New Zealand, it is described as convenient, accurate and reliable for use on farm.

The directors are all enthusiastic supporters of various charities and Dr Behan is currently in training to complete a sponsored 24-hour, 125- mile canoe trek along the river Severn in aid of Help for Heroes.