âDairy cows are at risk of a range of bovine diseases including Johneâs disease, which costs the industry up to $90 million annually in lost milk production and poor calving rates,â Pictor chief operations officer Howard Moore says.
A new test for an incurable bovine disease will be developed after Auckland Biotech company Pictor was granted more than $400,000 from a Government investment fund.
Johne’s disease is caused by a bacterial infection of the gut in cattle and other ruminant animals. It causes a gradual thickening and inflammation of the intestinal wall and eventually prevents the uptake of nutrients, and can be fatal.
It was first discovered in New Zealand more than a century ago. Most herds probably harbour some infection, Dairy NZ said.
Pictor’s affordable multiplex test could save the dairy industry between $40 million and $90m a year in lost milk production and poor calving rates, chief operating officer Howard Moore said.
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The disease was difficult to diagnose but once that had happened animals were normally culled to prevent further infection in a herd, he said.
The company’s multiplex testing platform had the potential to be a more sensitive test and therefore reduce the number of false negatives.
“We will pick up more infected cows when we test.”
The Webber family pack for the traditional dairy farm change over on June 1.
The Ministry for Primary Industries Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund is providing the $404,000 development money.
Early last year Pictor received a grant of $500,000 from the $25m Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment Covid-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund to advance its PictArray Covid-19 test.
Despite there being a range of individual tests for Johne’s disease on the market, affordability was a barrier to wider testing by farmers, Moor said.
“The novel multiplex diagnostic technology we’re developing will lower costs and bundle tests, enabling more proactive and sustainable management of disease on-farm.”
The inclusion of a pregnancy test would allow farmers to predict calving patterns more accurately, and make timely decisions about which cows to keep for next season, he said.
MPI investment programme director Steve Penno said the regular and early testing for Johne’s disease and pregnancy together, along with good management, could boost productivity and calving rates.
“MPI is supporting this project because of its potential to boost productivity and environmental outcomes alongside healthier animals.”
The research project is led by Howard Moore, chief operating officer at Pictor, and Rao Dukkipati, senior lecturer at Massey University, and builds on long-term research led by associate professor Alan Murray.
Pictor has filed a provisional patent for the diagnostic test, which was expected to have been fully developed in a year’s time.
Last year, Pictor also entered a research agreement with MPI, DairyNZ and Beef and Lamb to develop a more sensitive diagnostic for Mycoplasma Bovis. The programme has been allocated up to $30 million for M. bovis research projects.
Pictor was founded in 2005. In August last year Pictor established Pictor Inc. in the USA and appointed Thomas Schlumpberger as its new chief executive, who is based in San Francisco.