European dairy sector is a heavyweight in the European Union’s agricultural economy. Is the world second biggest agricultural sector in terms of output value, after the vegetable and horticultural plant sector and before cereals. (1). In 2016, European milk farmers produced 163.3 million liters of cow’s milk, representing a 27% market share in global trade. There were 23.4 million dairy cows in the EU in 2015, unevenly distributed across the EU. (2)
Nowadays, the dairy industry faces a number of challenges, according to the study “Animal Welfare in the EU” by the European Parliament. Second worst animal welfare problem in Europe is the poor welfare of dairy cows, because of leg disorders, mastitis and reproductive problems.
Mastitis is an endemic disease and one of the most prevalent diseases in dairy cows. Distinguish by an inflammation of mammary gland parenchyma, which is characterized by a range of physical and chemical changes of milk and pathological changes in the udder tissues. It also provokes the swelling and discomfort on the cow, affecting to the quality of milk. Mastitis most commonly occurs on dairy cows but can also affects all types of them, being the most important, frequent and costly disease, affecting dairy herds worldwide (Halasa et al. 2007; Miller et al. 1993). According to Bhikane & Kawitkar (2000) this is a major economic issue in dairy industry worldwide, causing up to 70% of reduced milk production, 9% of milk discard after treatment, 7% of the cost of veterinary services and 14% of premature culling.
In the UK only, around one million cases of bovine mastitis occur each year, causing 200 millions pounds of losses in production and treatments every year (Science Daily 2008). Under Dutch circumstances, the average costs of a case of clinical mastitis are estimated to be 277 Euros and 168 Euros for cows in early and late lactation respectively. According to estimations by De Vos, C.J. and Dijkhuizen, A.A. (1998) “Economical aspects of udder health” (in Dutch). the yearly economic damage of clinical mastitis for Dutch farmers exceeds 100 million Euros, assuming a yearly incidence rate of 25% and 1,6 million dairy cows at risk each year.
Current milk testing involves bacterial culture and/or PCRs to identify bacterial pathogens, involving time consuming and expensive processes. To address this key issue, DestiNA Genomics Ltd. (DGL) has developed the Bovine Mastitis Spin-Tube project, calls MastiTube, a novel medical multiplex diagnostic platform based on a direct detection of mastitis pathogen rRNA sequences, without need of cultures or PCRs.
The MastiTube project takes advantage from this market need and timing opportunity, and was developed from the previous patented device DestiNA Spin-Tube, used for human parasite infections. This test pledge to revolutionize testing for mastitis, offering a rapid, accurate and low cost detection of bovine mastitis, of 2 DestiNA Spin tube Prototype / Source: euros cost per test.
DGL is a spin-off from the University of Edinburgh, founded in 2010 by three partners: Hugh Ilyine, Juan J. Diaz-Mochon and Mark Bradley, to research, validate and commercialize this novel “dynamic chemistry” technology. In 2012 DGL incorporated a Spanish subsidiary DestiNA Genomica S.L. (DGSL), located on the Granada Health Technology Park, with the goal of fostering research and development in Spain, with partners such as Master Diagnóstica.
Since its foundation, DGL/DGSL have focused on development of simpler, faster more accurate and cost-effective products for PCR free detection of microRNAs, valuables as biomarkers for toxicology, illness and disease.
Technology developed is unique and distinguishable from the rest existing enzymatic methods of nucleic acid analysis. Additionally, company demonstrated that its patented Smart Nucleobase Technology works 100% accurately at detecting mutations in blind testing of cystic fibrosis patient blood samples.
Participation in ACTTiVAte program has been decisive to reach goal of becoming a leading manufacturer and supplier of custom chemical reagents for biomarker assays. Participation has helped finishing developments to get ready a prototype, including improved sample preparation and RNA stabilization, refrigeration free handling, shipment and storage, as well as its library of patented smart nucleobases and custom probes.
The MastiTube solution will make an important impact in European countries with significant dairy herds, such as the Agrofood Capital Cluster of Netherlands which produces almost the 10% of the total production of milk in Europe; and thanks to the ACTTiVAte network will be possible to contact them and improve the test thanks to its inputs.
On the coming months, as a result of its contacts with the Roslyn Institute in Scotland, DestiNA will implement the MastiTube to detect novel biomarkers for early detection of dairy cow pregnancy. A contract between the Institute and the company has been recently signed to improve the MastiTube in order to develop new tests for the Agrofood and companion animal sector.
Furthermore, participation in ACTTiVAte has facilitated the development of alternative market entrance strategies and viable business models, as well as the investment of 180 thousand Euros already in 2018. This and further investments will also open up new scalable opportunities and thus lower costs and prices, which likely lead to first national sales in 2019 and international ones in 2020.