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New genetic testing lab development to improve DNA test turnaround

by Sheep Central, 04 September 2017

Processing time for sheep DNA tests is set to improve through Neogen’s new genomic testing laboratory in Queensland.

AUSTRALIAN sheep DNA testing turnaround times are expected to be more reliable and up to 40 percent faster with Neogen Corporation’s decision to establish a genomic testing laboratory in Queensland.

GeneSeek Australasia, a wholly owned subsidiary of United States-based parent company Neogen, has acquired the assets of the Animal Genetics Laboratory, based at the Gatton campus of the University of Queensland.

The Neogen facility in Australia will be its fourth animal genomics laboratory, joining locations in the US, Scotland, and Brazil.

Chief executive officer of the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) Professor James Rower expected reliable turnaround times for DNA could be reduced from four to three weeks.

“Today’s announcement is a major development which will help consolidate the use of DNA technologies and support accelerated genetic improvement in our flocks.”

The Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) has led the development of DNA testing within the Australian sheep industry and has worked in collaboration with Neogen’s GeneSeek laboratories since the start of the Information Nucleus program in 2007.

“GeneSeek has always provided competitive pricing and excellent quality control but until now all tests had to be shipped to the US for processing,” Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said.

“While the range of DNA test products we have developed has proven to be immensely valuable to sheep breeders, the turnaround time from taking blood samples to receiving results has been the biggest single factor limiting wider uptake of genomic technologies within the Australian sheep industry.”

Turnaround time expected to be more reliable through new lab

Professor Rowe didn’t expect the development would change the price of DNA testing initially.

“The real story is that we won’t need to send our samples to the United States in the future, which is one step that has been variable and quite frustrating.

“Every now and then you get a batch that is held up in US Customs or goes walkabout with the courier system, and when that happens it pushes our turnaround time out to about 10 weeks.”

Prof. Rowe said the new lab would result in faster and more consistent turnaround time and combined with the new GeneSeek technical platform would also mean fewer repeat analyses.

“At the moment we are operating pretty much on a 4-5 week turnaround, unless you get a glitch, which throws everyone into turmoil,” he said.

But Professor Rowe said there would be a transition period while Neogen’s new Queensland laboratory is set up, but within six months, DNA test turnaround times could drop to three weeks.

“That’s a game-changer.”

Quicker turnaround would be particularly valuable for terminal ram breeders wanting to make earlier selection decisions after taking weaning weight, muscle and fat scan measurements, he said.

Neogen lamb equipment will enable better genotype planning

Neogen’s vice president of corporate development and director of GeneSeek AustralAsia, Dr Jason Lilly, said that as Neogen’s business in Australia had grown, the company had recognized the importance of improving its presence in the local market and its service to strategic partners such as the Sheep CRC.

“Combining AGL’s complementary expertise and local support with GeneSeek’s animal genomic capabilities, will provide Australian sheep producers with the utmost in local service, turnaround time, and technical support,” Dr Lilly said.

The lab will feature the latest equipment and will be compatible with the recent developments in the parentage and 15k multi-trait genotyping tests for the Australian sheep industry.

“This will mean that breeders will be able to plan their genotyping around the best possible combination of parentage and multi-trait genotyping testing to minimise the costs of double testing and maximise the information from multi-trait genomic predictions,” Prof. Rowe said.

“GeneSeek has always provided excellent technical support in the design and development of the Sheep CRC’s DNA testing systems and being based in Australia is likely to further enhance what has been a very productive working relationship.”

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