SAN DIEGO — GeneSeek, a wholly-owned genomic services subsidiary of Neogen Corporation, this week began offering bovine genotyping on Affymetrix's new Axiom Genome-Wide BOS 1 Array. While GeneSeek has offered cattle genotyping services for years on other platforms, a company official said that the firm sees the new Affy array as a springboard to reaching clients in the beef cattle industry, particularly in international markets.
Jason Lilly, director of corporate development at Neogen, said this week that GeneSeek just began offering the BOS 1 Array for commercial evaluation. The chip runs on Affy's automated GeneTitan system, and includes 648,000 SNPs selected in collaboration with the Affymetrix Bovine Consortium, a group that includes the University of Missouri, the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, and others (see related story, this issue).
"Customers are excited about the new product and are interested in trialing the product," Lilly said. He described their initial service offering as Affy's "conduit to the market in order to generate awareness, and obtain customer feedback."
Lilly spoke to BioArray News at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference, held here this week.
GeneSeek has offered SNP genotyping for bovine researchers and cattle breeders for years. The Lincoln, Neb.-based firm is an Illumina certified service provider and currently provides the Illumina BovineHD, which contains more than 777,000 SNP markers; the SNP50 BeadChip, which contains nearly 55,000 markers; and the Bovine 3K GoldenGate BeadChip, which is a panel of more than 3,000 markers for animal selection. The firm also provides custom Illumina bovine chips. In addition, GeneSeek offers genotyping services on the Sequenom MassArray platform.
Despite all these options, Lilly said there is demand for Affy's new chip. "I think there has been pent-up demand in the marketplace for new content, new platforms, and new pricing," he said. "Our goal is to have multiple platforms to meet our customer needs, to enable genotyping to get to the masses," Lilly added.
According to Lilly, the advantage of the new Affy array is that it "covers more bovine breeds" than other offerings, which will enable it to penetrate markets where greater varieties of cattle are reared. "With a lower price point and better coverage, we can hopefully get to the Latin American and Asian markets," he said. Lilly declined to discuss pricing, but said that the BOS 1 Array is "aggressively priced."
One segment of the market that may react "very favorably" to Affy's offering is the beef cattle industry. Lilly said that while the dairy industry is now using array technology in tandem with old-fashioned phenotyping methodology to breed cows for milk production, arrays have not yet become widely used in the beef cattle industry.
According to Lilly, the dairy industry is now running arrays on a "widespread basis" as it is largely based on a single species, Holsteins, and they are interested primarily in milk quality and yield traits. The beef cattle industry, in contrast, relies on dozens of breeds, and look at a variety of traits of interest.
"The South American breeds are completely different from the North American breeds, and every company, and even some large ranches are running their own genetic improvement programs, so it's not as centralized as the dairy industry," he said.
Lilly said that the BOS 1 Array, "in particular," given its lower cost, may encourage the beef cattle industry to adopt genotyping arrays. He noted that the beef cattle industry is a "much bigger market than the dairy industry but more complex in terms of applying DNA testing." He said that the BOS 1 Array is "going to have its biggest role in helping the beef industry get to the point where they can start doing routine testing for genetic improvement."
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'The Next Leap'
Neogen, a food and animal safety firm based in Lansing, Mich., paid $13.8 million to buy GeneSeek through a stock purchase last year (BAN 4/10/2010). Since then, GeneSeek has been maintained as a fully owned subsidiary of NeoGen, folded into its animal safety business unit.
"GeneSeek had grown quite heavily over the past few years," Lilly said. "In order to keep that growing sometimes you need to make larger investments, and you need to go to that next leap. That's where Neogen came in."
Over the past nine months, GeneSeek has expanded its facilities in Nebraska and added personnel. During a PAG workshop this week, the firm disclosed that it currently employs 40 people. Neogen's FY 2010 ended on May 31, 2010. At that time, the publicly held company reported total receipts of $140 million, 18 percent higher than FY 2009 revenues.
According to Lilly, the acquisition fit well with Neogen's mission of being the "dominant supplier" in the food and animal health space. "Our idea is to be a farm-to-fork provider of food safety, animal health, and food security, and [the acquisition] fit that play very nicely," he said. "We look forward to see how genomics will continue to impact food and animal safety."
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