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GeneSeek Sees 'Double-Digit' Growth in Demand for Agrigenomics SNP Array Services

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This story was originally posted on Jan. 24

Agrigenomics services company GeneSeek discussed several new SNP chips at its workshop at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference, which was held last week in San Diego.

Among the new products the company is making available to breeders and researchers are its GeneSeek Genomic Profiler, or GGP, for Dairy Cattle, a 10,000-marker array with content associated with parentage, performance, and disease; and its 80,000-marker Mouse Universal Genotyping Array, dubbed the MegaMUGA because it provides nearly ten times the density of GeneSeek's original Mouse Universal Genotyping Array.

According to Jason Lilly, vice president of corporate development at GeneSeek's parent company Neogen, GGP Dairy and MegaMUGA are just two of many SNP chips that the firm offers, many of which have been designed to meet the needs of its clients.

"We have a plethora of custom genotyping chips available for commercial use, as well as many private custom chips for specific companies," Lilly told BioArray News this week. "While we still offer [catalog] products, the majority of our industry customers are seeking customized solutions," he added.

In addition to GGP Dairy and MegaMUGA, GeneSeek currently offers high-density GGPs for beef cattle and sheep and a lower-density panel for pig. Lilly said that GeneSeek is also planning on adding a low-density sheep array and a eucalyptus array to its menu later this year. He noted that GeneSeek is an Illumina service provider and also offers "numerous" custom arrays on the Affymetrix platform.

The availability of all of these new arrays underscores the increased demand for SNP genotyping services, Lilly said. "We have seen double-digit growth of our array business year over year," he said. The biggest increases have been in cattle genotyping; however, and Lilly noted that demand for sheep and pig genotyping services are "also growing very nicely."

Neogen does not break out revenues for specific product lines, but reported that 2012 revenues for the GeneSeek business increased to $18.5 million from $18 million in 2011.

Beyond traditional livestock, GeneSeek is also seeing expanded interest in custom arrays for "niche species," as the price per sample has decreased, and the ability to create custom content has become more obtainable.

"Custom arrays are a growing area of the business and we see it continuing to expand," said Lilly. "We are seeing more requests for both small and large volumes of custom chips for groups looking to utilize genomic information as part of regular animal and crop improvement programs."

Part of that increase in demand is coming from outside the US. Though GeneSeek is based in Lincoln, Neb., through Neogen, it has a direct presence in Europe and in Brazil, where the majority of the firm's business has been in high-density SNP genotyping array services. Lilly said that Neogen also has a "significant presence" in Australia and New Zealand. Earlier this month, Neogen announced a partnership with the University of Queensland's Animal Genetics Laboratory to make its genotyping services available to Australian livestock breeders and researchers.

Lilly said that GeneSeek has been able to compete in these regions by offering custom content specific to local breeds of interest.

While SNP chips continue to be the firm's flagship technology, Lilly said GeneSeek is "always looking for the next technology platform" and has invested recently in next-generation sequencing, exploring genotyping-by-sequencing for "low-plex applications."

Still, he said that for "regular genomic evaluation, where you need … several thousand to hundreds of thousands [of SNPs] at an economical price, Neogen feels SNP arrays will continue to be the technology of choice for the foreseeable future."

Scidera Update

GeneSeek became part of Lansing, Mich.-based Neogen in 2010, when the latter acquired it for $13.8 million (BAN 4/6/2010).

According to Lilly, the GeneSeek acquisition gave Neogen an "entry point to not only start working closer with researchers and genetics and breeding companies," but to use the firm's resources for animal genomics in other applications. For instance, Neogen last year launched a food safety application called Neoseek that detects Shiga toxin-producing strains of Escherichia coli.

Since buying GeneSeek, the firm has made additional investments in its agrigenomics business, Lilly said. In 2011, it partnered with the National Beef Cattle Evaluation Consortium to promote the use of SNP arrays and genome-wide predictions to assist many North American beef breeds, he said. And last year, the company acquired Igenity, a beef genomic profiling application, from Merial.

Earlier this month, Neogen acquired the assets of Scidera Genomics, which Lilly said is "one of the original biotech companies established to provide genotyping services to the cattle industry." Formerly known as MMI Genomics, Davis, Calif.-based Scidera "services many commercial ranchers and independent producers," Lilly said, adding that the acquisition gives Neogen access to Scidera's customer base, creating additional opportunities for its GeneSeek and Ingenity businesses.

Lilly also claimed that Scidera Genomics is a "leading provider of genetic information to dog breed registries across the world," and said the firm sees an opportunity to "help these organizations take advantage of new technologies to provide more offerings to their membership."

Lilly said that while Neogen bought Scidera primarily for its intellectual property, it is possible some of that IP will find its way onto future generations of its SNP chips.

"Scidera did have some cattle trait IP, which will be added to our future bovine arrays," he said, "and we will be exploring some of their canine IP in the future as well."

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